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Collection of heavy weapons continues apace in Afghanistan - UN

16 January 2005 Former fighters in Afghanistan are continuing to turn in their weapons at a “high rate,” a spokesman for the United Nations mission in the country said today.

Over 34,000 military personnel have so far laid down their arms, Ariane Quentier of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) told reporters in the capital, Kabul. More than 8,100 working or repairable heavy weapons have been collected and placed in secure compounds.

While the UN is able to document everything collected, “what is less precise and changing, is the final number of heavy weapons in the country, as we keep finding more heavy weapons, and we are far beyond the initial estimates that were initially given by the Ministry of Defence when the collection exercise began, an estimate slightly above 4,000 heavy weapons,” she said.

Meanwhile, in a development that bodes well for Afghanistan's gender equality after years of Taliban misrule that ended in late 2001, the Voice of Afghan Women radio is slated to be re-launched next week.

According to Ms. Quentier, tough topics will be tackled. “The 11 female journalists and technicians who operate the radio station will not only broadcast informative programmes on health, education, women's rights and family matters, but they will also tackle sensitive cultural issues such as divorce, forced marriages and honour killings.”

The Voice of Afghan Women's Association first launched the radio station in March 2003 with the help of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). But because the antenna was too small, the radio could only broadcast to a small area in Kabul. It eventually went off air in November 2003. Since then the German Development Service has provided it with a powerful new transmitter, which paved the way for the anticipated re-broadcast.

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