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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
UN refugee appeal to Pakistan
Women refugees in Pakistan
The newest arrivals live in wretched conditions
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, has asked Pakistan to be patient in resolving the issue of the more than two million Afghan refugees it hosts.

Mr Lubbers is to hold talks with Pakistan government ministers about the issue, which in recent months has become increasingly sensitive.

Old man
Pakistan wants the refugees to leave
The Pakistani authorities have faced criticism for deporting some of them and refusing aid agencies full access to some of the more recent arrivals.

Mr Lubbers is in Pakistan after a tour of Afghanistan, during which he failed to get a temporary halt to the fighting to allow relief work to go ahead.

Getting tough

Mr Lubbers said that repatriating refugees from Pakistan would take time, and he had to ensure that anyone who returned to Afghanistan wouldn't face persecution.

Pakistan has grown increasingly tired of hosting the refugees and has made clear that it wants them to leave.

It has closed its borders to new arrivals and refused to allow the UN to register 80,000 people living in extremely difficult conditions at a makeshift camp at Jalozai, near the border town of Peshawar.

Many of the newest arrivals have fled a severe drought as well as the on-going civil war in Afghanistan.

Mr Lubbers is due to visit the Jalozai camp on Saturday.

Ceasefire failure

The UN chief has also appealed for Pakistan's help in creating a stable situation inside Afghanistan.

Afghan opposition fighter
Fresh fighting has erupted with opposition forces
"We realise that Pakistan cannot solve all problems there but we think it is an important neighbour of Afghanistan and therefore it is going to be heard by the Taleban," he said.

Pakistan is one of only three countries to recognise the Taleban.

During his visit to Afghanistan, Mr Lubbers attempted to arrange a temporary ceasefire to help tackle the country's worsening humanitarian crisis.

However, the proposal was rejected by the Taleban, although it was accepted by the opposition.

Reports on Friday said that a major Taleban offensive was underway in central Bamiyan province.

A spokesman for one of the opposition factions, the Hezb-e Wahdat, said his forces had been forced back by a Taleban advance.

The opposition only control about 10% of the country - mainly in the centre and north-east.

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See also:

03 May 01 | South Asia
Taleban rejects ceasefire
22 Feb 01 | South Asia
Afghan refugees face bleak future
04 Apr 01 | South Asia
Pakistan blamed for refugee misery
14 Feb 01 | South Asia
UN warns of Afghan catastrophe
29 Nov 00 | South Asia
Urgent UN appeal for Afghanistan
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