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Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 15:33 GMT

World: South Asia

UN back in action in Afghanistan

Taleban guards sit outside the UN staff guest house in Kabul

The United Nations is resuming operations in Afghanistan after several days of rioting left workers locked indoors for protection.

The co-ordinator of the UN humanitarian mission in Afghanistan, Erick de Mul, held talks with the ruling Taleban authorities and said afterwards he was satisfied with guarantees that the recent incidents would not recur.

"Everything is back to normal," he told reporters in Kabul before returning to Pakistan where he is based. "We will be careful, but we are always careful."

"Incidents can always happen. The indicators are that what happened in the last six or seven days probably and hopefully will not be repeated," Mr De Mul said.

[ image: Protesters chanted anti-US slogans]
Protesters chanted anti-US slogans
He arrived in Kabul on Tuesday after angry demonstrators ransacked UN buildings in Kabul and elsewhere, burning one building to the ground.

He said the UN was assessing the damage caused to its offices, for which the Taleban have said they will pay compensation.

Postal service

In another development, the Taleban have made a special request to the UN Security Council to exempt Afghanistan's postal service from the UN embargo.

The Security Council resolution has set up a committee which can make exemptions to the air embargo on humanitarian or religious grounds.

The BBC's Kate Clark in Kabul says the postal service is extremely important to Afghans who have family abroad, and people are puzzled that what they see as a non-political service has been hit by sanctions.

On Sunday, Afghans took to the streets in protest at the imposition of UN sanctions on the Taleban for its refusal to surrender fugitive Saudi militant Osama bin Laden, wanted by the United States on terrorism charges.

Mr De Mul said discussions with the Taleban had been positive and he was looking forward to the meeting of the joint consultative committee on 13 November.


That will involve six days of intensive talks between the UN and the Taleban on the year ahead.

[ image: The gates of the US embassy were badly damaged on Sunday]
The gates of the US embassy were badly damaged on Sunday
The UN co-ordinator said he had visited the former Soviet embassy compound in Kabul where 16,000 people - some 10,000 of them children - have settled after being displaced by fighting.

He also spoke about the 65,000 displaced people sheltering in opposition-held territory in the Panjshir Valley.

He said he hoped to have an agreement with the Taleban by the weekend on taking aid convoys across the frontline.

The issue is urgent because winter snow may soon block off the passes.

The Taleban control most of the country but are fighting opposition troops in the northeast.

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