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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 09:21 GMT
UK Afghans volunteer to return
Afghans in the UK want to help their countrymen rebuild
Many Afghan refugees in the UK are asking to return home following the weakening of the Taleban, their embassy in London says.

The Afghan Embassy says the calls follow talks with community leaders aimed at finding doctors, engineers and other professionals who would be willing to fly to Afghanistan.

For several days, staff have been drawing up lists of skilled and professional Afghans who are willing to help with the country's rebuilding programme.

I'm a journalist, I will fight with my pen

Aziz Marous
An embassy spokesman rejected claims that the proposals could put lives in danger and insists volunteers could be flown out within weeks or days - as soon as flights to the country are resumed.

It is even possible the embassy could pay the cost of flights back to Afghanistan.

Inquiries to the embassy increased after the virtual rout of the Taleban following the fall of Kabul, the spokesman said.

UN force

But the idea has been strongly criticised by some Afghan refugee groups, who say that even in Kabul the situation is far from stable.

They say no one should return to Afghanistan until a UN force is in place to protect them.

One who is determined to return is 60-year-old journalist Aziz Marous.

Forcing people back now would be grossly inappropriate

Nick Hardwick
British Refugee Council
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I want to go to fight, not only to live a peaceful life there. I'm a journalist, I will fight with my pen."

The cost of the reconstruction in Afghanistan could be as much as 21bn ($30bn) including most pressing post-war needs, such as agriculture, water, education and mine clearance.

Representatives of 21 countries, as well as the World Bank, the European Union and the Islamic Development Bank, have already pledged their support to the rebuilding .

But Nick Hardwick, chief executive of the British Refugee Council, said even volunteers should think twice about going home for many years to come.

Massive job

He said: "Forcing people back now would be grossly inappropriate.

"There is a massive job to do in terms of creating a political settlement and simply getting food to people, making sure they have shelter during winter.

British Muslims
The Afghan Embassy has been asking for professionals
"It's the height of selfishness to forget that and say 'fine now, got a bit of a partial victory, we can wash our hands of all the refugees'."

UN-sponsored talks starting on Monday will bring together representatives of four major ethnic groups to help form a post-Taleban government in the country.

There are already US troops on the ground in Afghanistan and British troops are holding an airbase near Kabul.

But the prospect of an international military force or peace-keeping troops is still unclear without a defined mission they would be asked to perform.

The BBC's Mike Thomson
"The routing of the Taleban is persuading many to play a role in rebuilding their country"

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See also:

17 Sep 01 | Americas
A community under siege
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