Bill Delaney: U.N. concerned about 'humanitarian crisis'
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- As U.S. jets pounded Taliban troop positions near Mazar-e Sharif on Thursday, two news conferences were held in Islamabad, Pakistan, detailing separate accounts of the war.
The U.N. special representative to Afghanistan talked about a pending "humanitarian crisis" and the Taliban discussed the arrest of Americans. CNN's Bill Delaney is based in Islamabad. He filed this report.
DELANEY: The U.N. special representative to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, is on a tour of the region here; he leaves tonight or tomorrow for Iran and then on to the central Asian republics. Mr. Brahimi emphasized in his press conference the humanitarian crisis -- some call it a catastrophe -- looming in Afghanistan.
Mr. Brahimi said at least 900,000 Afghans face starvation; they're desperately in need of food and shelter with the winter coming in the next couple of weeks in Afghanistan. Here's what he said:
BRAHIMI: The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is our priority. That is where we are, trying to work against terrible odds and also against time as winter is drawing very near. And in this context, it is of particular concern to us that the shortage of food and other relief supplies in the northern and western provinces. The situation is very bad in these regions.
DELANEY: Mr. Brahimi fielded questions from reporters about whether the United Nations is getting involved in nation-building in Afghanistan. He said, 'No.' But they will get involved in reconstruction of the country eventually. There's a difference between that and nation-building, he said.
He also said the U.N. will be open to talking to Taliban representatives if and when that is appropriate.
As for the Taliban, they also had a press conference here in Islamabad. The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan said that U.S.-led strikes in Afghanistan continue to hit primarily, he said, civilian targets, killing 21 civilians in Afghanistan yesterday, according to the Taliban. That figure is by no means independently confirmed.
We've had vague reports for a number of days now about Americans possibly under arrest in Afghanistan. The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan was asked about that, but he was very vague. He said a few Americans are under arrest, but he would not say who they were, when they were arrested or why.
Regarding talks, possible negotiations, with the United States over the situation in Afghanistan, Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef had this to say.
ZAEEF (through translator): Resumption of the talks does not depend on us. Our position is quite obvious. This is the Americans who are making oppressions on us. They have closed the door of negotiation, and they denied negotiation in talks before. So, there is no chance of negotiation as far as they're concerned. You can contact them to express their own views.
DELANEY: Here in Pakistan, there are more indications of the government's concern over uneasiness and unrest in some Pakistanis over the U.S.-led bombing of Afghanistan – all public rallies have been banned here in Afghanistan; loud speakers have been banned here in Pakistan, except at Friday sermon prayers and the call to prayer.
Afghans in Pakistan have been warned not to cause any kind of agitation or face imminent deportation. One important politician here was already put under arrest in the middle of the night last night. The acting president of the Pakistan Muslim League – the country's largest political party – was taken in last night. This party has not taken a position on the bombing in Afghanistan, but it had announced it would support scheduled road blockages throughout the country on November 9, which are sponsored by a coalition of primarily religious parties.
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