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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Afghan aid convoy leaves Iran
Afghan refugee children in a makeshift school in Iran
Afghan refugee children in a makeshift school in Iran
The United Nations food agency has sent its first convoy of aid into Afghanistan since the US-led attacks on the country began.

The convoy of World Food Programme (WFP) trucks carrying 100 tonnes of wheat has left Iran, heading for the western city of Herat.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said two other larger truck convoys carrying wheat had arrived in north-western Afghanistan and the capital Kabul. They had left on Sunday from Pakistan and Turkmenistan.

The WFP has 9,000 tonnes of food inside Afghanistan and 50,000 tonnes stockpiled in the region, Mr Boucher said.

The United States is also sending 165,000 tonnes of food aid to Afghanistan by ship, he said.

Iran condemns raids

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, meanwhile, has called for an "immediate end" to the US military strikes against Afghanistan, as thousands of refugees continue to cross the border into Iran.

Mr Khatami said the strikes against the Taleban regime and Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden had caused a "human catastrophe," Iranian state radio said.

An Afghan boy and his father stand in the doorway of their tent in a refugee camp in south-eastern Iran
Iran says 20,000 refugees have entered Iran since Sunday
Iran's Deputy Health Minister Mohammad-Esmail Akbari told the official news agency IRNA that since the beginning of the US air strikes more than 20,000 Afghan refugees had crossed into south-eastern Iran.

"Emergency units have been set up in the interior ministry and the provincial health committee," he said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also established camps in three border areas, he added.

On Monday, the UNHCR said Afghan refugees were now also heading for Iran's north-eastern borders.

The agency has estimated that 300,000 to 400,000 Afghans could flee to Iran during the attacks, and has called on Iran to open its borders in the event of a huge flow of refugees.

Unicef aid

The UN children's fund, Unicef, also plans to send a seven-truck convoy to Herat from Iran on Tuesday.

The convoy will carry health kits for up to 350,000 people, blankets, jerry cans, water purification tablets and drugs to treat respiratory infections, Unicef spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte said.

"Every day closer to winter the needs become more urgent. We know the catastrophic effects of winter on children and we have to be prepared," she said.

See also:

07 Oct 01 | Middle East
Iran's mounting concern
30 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iran accuses West of double standards
26 Sep 01 | Middle East
Analysis: The two sides of Iran
17 Sep 01 | South Asia
UN prepares for major Afghan crisis
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