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Saturday, 15 June, 2002, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
UN tells Afghan warlords to end violence
Members of General Atta Mohammad's militia lay down arms
Getting the militias to disarm will be a key challenge

The United Nations Special Representative to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, has called on prominent warlords to take urgent action to stop lawlessness and intimidation in the north of the country.

UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi
Mr Brahimi wants security restored to the north

The United Nations has expressed grave concern about recent incidents, including armed attacks on aid agencies, robberies and the gang rape of a female international aid worker.

Mr Brahimi met two prominent warlords whom he believes have the power to stop what the UN describes as an alarming level of violence in the north of Afghanistan.

General Abdul Rashid Dostam and General Atta Mohammed were told they must take urgent action.

Violent crime

The attacks have been going on for months. But in recent days there has been a serious deterioration.

Ex-President Burhanuddin Rabbani
Mr Rabbani's support helped Hamid Karzai

One American aid agency has left Afghanistan after its food distribution programme came under fire.

Another agency is considering closing down, after it was attacked during factional fighting.

There is also deep concern about armed robberies, harassment of local residents and what a UN spokesman called a vicious gang rape of a female international aid worker.

Disarming militias

Mr Brahimi has also conveyed his concern to Afghanistan's newly-elected head of state Hamid Karzai, who has repeatedly expressed his determination to crack down on abuses by warlords.

In a BBC interview on Friday, Mr Karzai vowed to get tougher in his second term in office.

The UN will regard this as a test of his commitment.

The UN insists those responsible for these crimes must be held responsible under the law.

It is also a challenge to the prominent warlords, who have been telling this week's Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, they are now prepared to put down their guns.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kate Clark
"The warlords have political clout as well as military might"
Manoel De-Almeida, UN spokesperson
"There is an alarming rate of violence"

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