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Annan recommends UN mission stay another year in Afghanistan

24 March 2004 Peace and security remain elusive for many Afghans, especially in rural areas, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says as he calls for another 12-month extension to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

In a report to the Security Council released today, Mr. Annan says "much remains to be done" outside Afghanistan's cities and it cannot be claimed that there is "one successful social or economic project in every district."

"Many Afghans still feel that the peace is not irreversible and act accordingly," he says. The report comes as voter registration continues across Afghanistan and preparations are under way for an international conference, to be held in Berlin next week, on the future of the country.

Mr. Annan identifies several issues as crucial: extending the effective authority of the central government across the whole country; jointly deploying Afghan and international security forces more widely; and disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating local militia.

But he says many advances have been made in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, including the successful running of the Constitutional Loya Jirga at the end of last year.

"The fact that the very serious differences that emerged during the Constitutional Loya Jirga were managed, and compromise and consensus reached, is testimony to a new will to engage in the democratic process," he writes.

Introducing the report to the Security Council, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hdi Annabi said the holding of free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections - scheduled for later this year - presents an enormously complex challenge for UNAMA and the Afghanistan Government.

So far voter registration has been restricted to the country's eight biggest cities, but in May it moves to rural areas, with 4,200 registration sites across the country to be established for the month. Some areas remain unsafe, and will have to be secured by international or Afghan forces, Mr. Annabi told an open briefing of the Council.

He added that few Afghans have electoral experience, which makes it difficult to train enough staff to handle the registration and the running of the elections, which are scheduled for June.

Mr. Annabi also says the weekend's deadly clashes in Herat, previously considered to be relatively stable, highlighted the security problems across Afghanistan. He urged the international community to show more support to the disarmament of militia groups.

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