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Over 50,000 former Afghan soldiers have disarmed, UN reports

8 May 2005 More than 50,000 former Afghan military troops have disarmed, and 90 per cent of them have entered a programme aimed at helping them to re-join society, the United Nations reported today.

“The most popular area of reintegration is agriculture with 43.6 per cent of participants choosing that option,” Ariane Quentier, spokesperson for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told a press briefing in the capital Kabul. “Vocational training is a distant second with 26.9 per cent participation.”

Of the 50,514 soldiers who have laid down their arms, 44,995 have entered into the reintegration programme.

Ms. Quentier also announced that nearly 31,000 light and heavy weapons have been collected under the Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process. “The discrepancy between the number of collected weapons and disarmed soldiers stem from the fact that certain weapons are manned by more than one soldier,” she explained.

In another development, the UN High Commisser for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today that two months after it resumed its voluntary repatriation programme in Pakistan, 55,065 people have returned with the agency's assistance.

UNHCR said it expects some 400,000 Afghans to go back by the end of 2005.

Meanwhile, in Iran more than 7,000 Afghans have been assisted by UNHCR to return so far this year. The agency estimates that 300,000 Afghans will this year return from Iran.

Some 3.2 million Afghans have repatriated under the UNHCR programme since it began three years ago.

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