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Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar speaks to the BBC
"You are comfortably sitting far away"
 real 28k

Friday, 19 November, 1999, 14:05 GMT
Pakistan fears Afghan exodus
Afghanistan wants wheat from Pakistan to relieve shortages

Pakistan has expressed fears that the effect of UN sanctions on neighbouring Afghanistan could trigger a mass influx of refugees into their country.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar told the BBC that his country - which has the longest border with Afghanistan - was concerned that it may be left to deal with the problem on its own once sanctions begin to bite.

"America, Europe and other distant places will not face any consequence," he said.

"United Nations agencies, bilateral donors, United States, United Kingdom and others have simply walked away since 1989. But we can't do that," Mr Sattar said.

He said that Pakistan should not be expected to take on the economic burden of Afghanistan, especially as there were far more affluent countries in the world who were in a better position to deal with it.

There are an estimated 1.2 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Mr Sattar said his country was worried their numbers could swell.

Smuggling worries

Meanwhile, a team of Taleban officials held talks with Pakistani officials in Islamabad, on trade differences.

The gates of the US embassy were badly damaged on Sunday
Taleban Deputy Minister for Trade, Qari Faizan, met representatives of Pakistan's commerce ministry to discuss a 1965 transit agreement, which allows land routes into Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been concerned about increased smuggling in the area. Goods meant for Afghanistan are often smuggled back to Pakistan and sold in local markets.

Earlier this week, the Taleban said Pakistan had agreed to sell wheat to Afghanistan to ease food shortages.

But analysts say Pakistan was not keen on extending the deal to other goods.

"The real problem...is smuggling which is eating into Pakistan's economy," said Akbar Khan of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad.

"About 80% of the goods, in my estimate, that come under the trade agreement are smuggled back through Pakistan's large porous border," he said.

On Thursday, the UN resumed operations in Afghanistan after several days of rioting left workers locked indoors for protection.

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.

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See also:
17 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Taleban to import wheat from Pakistan
18 Nov 99 |  South Asia
UN back in action in Afghanistan
14 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: No win situation
14 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Afghan anti-sanction protest
03 Aug 98 |  South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
16 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Taleban call for end to demos

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