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AFGHANISTAN: UN backs peace drive

KABUL, 21 September 2007 (IRIN) - In the run-up to the International Day of Peace on 21 September, calls for peace have been mounting across Afghanistan.

The country was plunged into chaos and armed hostilities after the Soviet Union invaded in 1979. Although it is now 18 years since the Soviet forces left, fighting is still going on.

Thousands of people, including hundreds of civilians, have died in the latest armed conflict in which Taliban insurgents and other anti-government elements are pitted against Afghan and international forces.

To highlight the country’s problems, the UN has placed Afghanistan at the centre of the Peace One Day campaign in 2007 in a bid to help Afghanistan’s 24 million people have a day of tranquillity after over 25 years of unrelenting violence.

“It is the biggest peace campaign there has ever been in Afghanistan; it may well be the biggest peace day campaign to have been run anywhere in the UN system this year,” Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA), told IRIN.

The countdown for Peace One Day was kicked off on 17 July in Kabul by its founder, Germy Gilley, and Hollywood movie star Jude Law.

Afghans of different backgrounds have shown impressive support for the globally celebrated day of peace, Edwards said.

In the week leading up to peace day, hundreds of children who have lost parents in the fighting marched along the streets of Kabul and several other cities to call for a day free of violence and hatred.

“Why shouldn’t we have one day of peace in a whole year?” asked 11-year-old Yaqub.

UN Secretary-General’s plea

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged all member states to cease hostilities on Friday 21 September: “Today, I urge all countries and all combatants to honour this cessation of hostilities… As the guns fall silent, we should use this opportunity to ponder the price we all pay due to conflict,” says the Secretary-General’s message.

Tom Koenigs, the UN special representative for Afghanistan, has also appealed for a total cessation of violence countrywide on and around 21 September: “Help us make peace in Afghanistan real,” Koenigs said.

Calls for a day of peace dovetail with a number of recent peace initiatives: In August 700 Afghan and Pakistani delegates took part in a three-day peace summit in Kabul, demanding that all warring parties end armed conflict. On 9 September Afghan President Karzai formally invited the Taliban to peace negotiations.

As Muslims started their holy month of Ramadan on 13 September, security incidents in Afghanistan were down, the UN said.

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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