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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 October, 2003, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
UN appeal for Afghan disarmament
Afghan militiamen
Gun culture has part of Afghan life for decades if not centuries
The United Nations has urged Afghan warlords to co-operate with an ambitious programme to disarm militias.

The Japanese-led programme, which has UN backing, aims to disarm some 100,000 fighters within two years.

Afghanistan's numerous private armies are now seen as the main obstacle to restoring order to the country.

"The responsibility... rests with those who have the weapons, who control the armed formations," said UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva.

He was speaking in Kabul a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai approved the programme which is due to begin on 24 October in the northern province of Kunduz, bordering Tajikistan.

Costing $200m, the programme aims to tackle the country's deeply ingrained gun culture.

Only last week, rival pro-government militias fought each other near Mazar-e-Sharif, 310 kilometres [190 miles] north of Kabul, leaving up to 80 fighters dead or wounded.

"[This] is a voluntary exercise but the key commanders of these factions have been involved from the very, very beginning of the discussions regarding this process," said Mr de Almeida e Silva.

"Now is the time to do it. Now is the time to transform words, plans into deeds."

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Country profile: Afghanistan
22 Jul 03  |  Country profiles

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