Afghanistan top priority for UN: Ban Ki-moon (Lead)

February 5th, 2009 - 12:11 am ICT by IANS  

Kabul, Feb 4 (DPA) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said here Wednesday that the world organisation was committed to bringing peace to Afghanistan and called the country its “top priority”.Ban made a brief surprise visit one day after the UN asked international donors to provide $603 million for humanitarian aid for the war-torn country.

“I am here to demonstrate and convey my strong support for the peace and stability and development of Afghanistan. For the UN, Afghanistan remains a key priority in 2009,” Ban told a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Ban’s trip came amid concerns over growing instability caused by Taliban-led violence in the country. Up to 30,000 extra US troops are expected to arrive in Afghanistan this year, in addition to more than 70,000 US and NATO soldiers already deployed in the country.

Afghan and NATO officials predict a tougher fight with insurgents this year than in 2008. Last year was the deadliest period for Afghanistan since the fall of Taliban regime in late 2001. The violence left more than 5,000 people dead, according to UN estimates.

President Karzai thanked Ban for the UN efforts and said, “With the assistance of the United Nations, Afghanistan has achieved a lot.”

The UN chief met with leaders of the national assembly during his second visit of the country since taking office in late 2006, the UN office in Kabul said in a statement.

Ban’s visit to Afghanistan followed an appeal by John Holmes, the under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, to donor nations to give $603 million for humanitarian aid.

Ban travelled to neighbouring Pakistan later Wednesday.

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