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The BBC's Susannah Price in Kabul
"Ruud Lubbers knows that this is not going to be easy"
 real 56k

UN refugee chief Ruud Lubbers
"For me it is not a peace initiative it is a humanitarian effort"
 real 28k

Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
Taleban rejects ceasefire
Ruud Lubbers, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, visits an Afghan refugee camp
Mr Lubbers has been meeting refugees
Afghan's ruling Taleban movement has rejected a UN call for a temporary ceasefire to help tackle a humanitarian crisis.

UN refugee chief Ruud Lubbers's ambitious plan to halt the fighting between the Islamic radicals and a loose alliance of forces loyal to the deposed president are now in tatters.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said he was unhappy with the reaction of the Taleban, after meeting Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil on the last day of his trip to Afghanistan.

"I said to him (Mr Muttawakil) that I have to be really honest with you that I am not happy with this," he said.

Earlier Mr Lubbers had an enthusiastic response from former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who is still recognised by the UN as president although the Northern Alliance, which backs him, controls only about 10% of the country.

Mr Lubbers had hoped that a ceasefire could push the international community into providing more assistance and to start reconstruction.

Refugees

Mr Lubbers had hoped that a ceasefire and subsequent rehabilitation of the country would persuade the 3.5 million refugees currently living in Iran and Pakistan to return.

Khalida, a girl living at a refugee camp
More than 3 million refugees have left the country
During the day on Thursday, Mr Lubbers is visiting a UN refugee agency project near Kabul which has been aiding returnees.

The UN is not currently helping to repatriate refugees, however, because of the fighting and drought.

One aid worker said they expected many more people to flee from Afghanistan before the process could be reversed.

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See also:

02 May 01 | South Asia
Refugee chief urges Afghan ceasefire
30 Apr 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan's civil war 'insane'
14 Feb 01 | South Asia
UN warns of Afghan catastrophe
30 Jan 01 | South Asia
Concern grows for Herat refugees
29 Nov 00 | South Asia
Urgent UN appeal for Afghanistan
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