Afghans fear UN sanctions will bring more poverty

AFP, November 11, 1999

KABUL, Nov 11 (AFP) - Afghanistan's war-ravaged people fear UN sanctions will push them further into poverty with winter fast approaching and the price of food soaring in street markets.

The UN Security Council will impose sanctions on Afghanistan from Sunday unless the ruling Taliban militia hand over indicted terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden is on the FBI's ten-most-wanted list and has been charged in the United States with the bombings of two US embassies in East Africa on August 7, 1998, in which 224 people were killed.

But the Taliban, which controls more than 80 percent of Afghanistan, insists he is innocent and refuses to hand him over.

"Everybody is extremely worried. The sanctions, prices, the declining value of the afghani currency and the shortage of food have become the talk of the streets," said Mohammad Osman, a worried civil servant and father of five.

Even UN officials in the capital Kabul are concerned about humanitarian problems which may follow.

"I think the UN is generally concerned, like the ordinary Afghans, over its humanitarian aspects," said Jolyon Leslie, head of the United Nations in Kabul.

"We hope its impacts will be minimized on the vulnerable people. We are more worried about the associated impacts of the sanctions like the price hike of food commodities," he said, echoing the concerns of many in this city.

Under the UN sanctions states will be forbidden from allowing Taliban aircraft to take off or land in their territory and will be required to freeze Taliban funds in their countries.

Humanitarian flights will be exempt, as will flights allowing Muslims to make the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Already the price of wheat flour, staple to the Afghan diet, has doubled and the local currency afghani has lost 10 percent of its value since the sanctions were announced on October 15.

Flour is now too expensive for most in Kabul, where a lucky labourer earns just a dollar a day and children gather leaves as fuel.

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