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U-N-H-C-R Says it is Losing Race Against Time to Help - 2001-10-12


The U-N High Commissioner for Refugees says he is losing a race against time to help an expected exodus of 400-thousand Afghans to Pakistan and Iran.

Ruud Lubbers Thursday expressed his growing concern and frustration over what he calls numerous obstacles to helping the fleeing and hungry Afghan civilians.

Mr. Lubbers said the U-N refugee agency is not receiving enough support from Central Asia or the international community and said helping civilians inside Afghanistan is a limited option due to the lack of security there.

The high commissioner said Pakistan -- which already hosts about two-million Afghans -- is insisting that any new camps be built in dry, remote, and insecure tribal areas near the Afghan border.

The U-N-H-C-R is appealing to international donors for 50-million dollars to help the refugees. It says of 29-million dollars already pledged, only 23-million has been sent.

Meanwhile, another U-N agency -- the World Food Program -- is encountering more roadblocks in its efforts.

It says the Taleban is now demanding a road tax before allowing any food shipments into Afghanistan from Iran and Pakistan.

A program spokesman says the organization is refusing to pay the tax and hopes to continue food convoys into Afghanistan.

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