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Annan Wants Peacekeepers to Remain in Afghanistan - 2002-03-01


U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for an extension of the mandate of international peacekeepers in Afghanistan.

Speaking to German lawmakers in Berlin, Thursday, Secretary-General Annan said that withdrawing the 45-hundred peacekeepers in June - when the current mandate expires - could, in his words, "plunge the country into chaos."

The United Nations is expected to decide by April whether to withdraw or extend the presence of the International Security Assistance Force. The world body also must decide which country will assume leadership of the force, if Britain - as expected - relinquishes its leadership role.

Separately, Thursday, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said Turkey needs assurances on the scope and future mandate of the peacekeepers before it decides whether to assume command of the force. Turkey is seen as the leading candidate to take over from Britain.

Also on Thursday, French President Jacques Chirac said France has doubts over whether international troops should be deployed outside the capital, Kabul. He spoke at a meeting with interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai in Paris where he pledged reconstruction aid.

Meanwhile, a mortar attack on a school east of Kabul, Thursday, killed one boy and wounded 30 others. Afghan officials suspect renegade Taleban supporters for the attack.

And, British peacekeepers in the capital reported coming under fire for the third time in as many weeks, late Wednesday.

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