16/01/2004

Afghans faces many onerous challenges ahead, says UN envoy

The successful conclusion of Afghanistan's recent constitutional Loya Jirga "promises great hope", but the country faces "many onerous challenges" if it is to capitalize on that hope, the outgoing senior UN envoy to Afghanistan has told the Security Council.

Lakhdar Brahimi, giving his final briefing as the Secretary-General's Special Representative to Afghanistan, said that improving security around the country, strengthening the rule of law, broadening the government's popular base and increasing the pace of reconstruction were crucial goals if the gains are not to be wasted.

He said there were too many indications over the last year that there was "not enough progress" in achieving these goals.

The security situation remained poor, especially in the south, east and southeast of the country, while many Pashtuns felt the government "does not give them a fair degree of representation", according to the envoy.

Outside the Council, when questioned by reporters, Mr Brahimi said he was doubtful that Afghanistan could meet the timetable outlined at the UN-brokered Bonn conference in late 2001 of holding national presidential and legislative elections by June this year.

"I think I have said that June for the presidential and legislative elections is not realistic any more," he said.

"How this is going to be now revised - are you going to have presidential elections alone, and then later legislative elections, or postpone both for a longer period of time? - is up to the people who are going to be involved in Afghanistan."

Mr Brahimi said he expected logistical problems would delay the elections by a couple of months, but he was confident they would be held before the end of this year.

Earlier this month, the 502 delegates to the Loya Jirga, or grand council, reached agreement on establishing a constitution for Afghanistan. The new document outlines a presidential system of government, a bicameral legislature, equal rights for women and a judicial system that complies with Islam.

(gmcg)

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