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Aid agencies unite in call for ceasefire

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Aid agencies have pleaded with the United States to temporarily halt air strikes on Afghanistan so that food supplies can be distributed before winter sets in.

Two million Afghans need donated food to help them get through the winter, and a half-million of them will be cut off by snow if aid doesn't reach them by mid-November, the aid groups said.

"The current rate of food deliveries and distribution is inadequate to supply enough food by mid-November," said a statement released by a group of private aid agencies before a news conference.

"All the obstacles to those food deliveries must be lifted."

The statement was signed by representatives of Oxfam International, Christian Aid, Action Aid and Islamic Relief.

The statement came a day after U.S. bombs hit a warehouse operated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the center of the Afghan capital, prompting a furious reaction from officials who said it was clearly a civilian facility.

Aid arriving but is it enough?

It said all the parties to the conflict -- including the Taliban, the opposition Northern Alliance and the United States and its allies must give certain guarantees.

"Guarantee that the urgent programme to feed the people in Afghanistan ... will in no way be impeded or targeted by either political or military forces engaged in the conflict," it said.

"Pause all military action in order to give the World Food Programme and others the greatest chance to deliver the maximum food before winter makes some areas inaccessible," it said.

Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the United States hopes to have about 55,000 tons of food head into Afghanistan each month as part of the Bush administration humanitarian aid package.

About 65,000 tons of food are expected to arrive in the area within the next few weeks.

An additional 100,000 tons will arrive toward the end of next month for November and December. The food will be administered by the U.N. World Food Program.

Red Cross losses

In Kabul, Afghan ICRC employees picked through the debris of the bomb-hit warehouse. At least 35 percent of the food and other equipment stored at the facility were destroyed, witnesses and officials said.

An ICRC worker was slightly wounded by flying glass in the raid, witnesses said.

"It is definitely a civilian target. In addition to that, it is a clearly marked ICRC warehouse," said Robert Monin, head of the ICRC delegation in Kabul and now evacuated to Pakistan.

"It is marked on the top with a red cross. People should take all necessary measures to avoid such things," he said.

All aid agencies withdrew their international staff after the ruling Taliban said they could no longer guarantee their security in the face of attacks by U.S. warplanes.


• Oxfam International
• Islamic Relief
• Christian Aid
• Action Aid

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