UN fails to secure Kabul ceasefire
Mahmoud Mestiri, a former Tunisian foreign minister, had talks yesterday with the country's nominal Prime Minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has been bombarding Kabul for months in an attempt to force his main rival, President Burhanuddin Rabbani, to resign. The two sides agreed to cease fighting during Mr Mestiri's visit, and on Saturday Mr Rabbani declared his commitment to a 'permanent and unconditional ceasefire'.
But Mr Hekmatyar gave an ambiguous response yesterday, saying: 'From our side we have already accepted a ceasefire, but the problem is that the other side is not respecting it.' The resignation of Mr Rabbani, he added, 'is a must for peace and reconciliation'.
Speaking at his headquarters at Charasyab, 15 miles south of Kabul, Mr Hekmatyar also rejected the idea of a UN role in the collection of heavy weapons in the capital. Afghan peace delegations have proposed that both sides should hand over their heavy weapons and cede control of the city to a council of local commanders. 'We are not accepting the delivery of weapons to any foreigners,' said the Hizbe Islami leader. 'We prefer that Afghans handle the matter themselves.'
Mr Mestiri is expected to meet President Rabbani's principal military commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud, today and to return to Pakistan tomorrow. His failure to persuade the faction leaders to stop fighting comes as little surprise - they have repeatedly broken previous peace accords - but it was hoped that the UN's higher profile would put more pressure on them to agree to mediation.
Since 1 January, when the Uzbek warlord, Abdul Rashid Dostam, switched to Mr Hekmatyar's side and launched a ground attack against the government, the centre of Kabul has been laid waste and more than 1,000 people killed. The Hizbe Islami leader has also imposed a near-total blockade on food aid to the government side of the city for more than two months, threatening widespread starvation.
The UN evacuated its international staff from the city in January, and has refused to allow them to return. 'They lost their credibility when they left Kabul,' said Aziz Murad, a presidential spokesman. The UN's next move remains unclear, but the Afghan capital now faces continued hostilities at least until July, when President Rabbani will have been in office for two years. Last month, however, Mr Murad said the President's term would be prolonged if the fighting went on.
- 1 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 2 50 books for students to read this summer: From Ernest Hemingway to Gillian Flynn
- 3 McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Joey Barton and Yossi Benayoun become involved in Twitter row over Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home
Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich claims Noel Gallagher helped him kick his cocaine addiction
Peaches Geldof: Her final day – and her fatal decision
Iraq crisis: Isis orders Mosul shop keepers to cover mannequins
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...
Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...
£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...