UN Official Due in Iran to Coordinate Aid for Afghan Refugees
A senior UN official is due in Iran on Tuesday to help coordinate aid in case of a flood of Afghan refugees linked to the terror crisis, the UN office in Tehran said.
The UN undersecretary general in charge of humanitarian affairs, Kenzo Oshima, will also deliver a message for Iran's leaders from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, it said.
UN agencies, including the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), have insisted that Iran -- which already has two million Afghan refugees - should open its borders in the event of Afghanis fleeing a feared US military attack against their country, which is sheltering Osama bin Laden, Washington's prime suspect in the September 11 terror attacks against the United States.
Following the attacks, Iran announced the closure of its border with Afghanistan, preferring to assist the refugees by building camps on the Afghan side of the border.
On Monday, Iran's student agency ISNA, quoting a Red Crescent official for Khorassan province, Yunes Ani, said "six camps with a [total] capacity of 100,000 people have been set up of Afghan soil."
Provincial authorities have also said Iran is planning to set up camps in Sistan-Baluchistan, also on Afghan soil.
Oshima's visit, which is aimed at coordinating aid for Afghan refugees in Iran, Pakistan or other neighboring countries, will start in the Iranian city of Mashhad, near the border with Afghanistan.
He will be in Tehran on Wednesday and Thursday.
A plane from the UN children's fund (UNICEF) loaded with 30 tons of food and medical supplies for Afghan refugees has received clearance to land Wednesday in Mashhad, the UNICEF office in Tehran said.
On Sunday, the head of the UNHCR mission to Afghanistan, Filippo Grandi, said that security requirements for Afghan refugees had not yet been met, and that 60 million dollars would be needed to take care of them in Iran.
For its part, the World Food Program (WFP) has allocated $19 million worth of food supplies for a possible large influx of refugees.
According to WFP estimates in Tehran, the number of Afghans heading toward the Iranian border could reach 400,000 -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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