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December 20, 2001
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Afghan administration on collision course with UN

Afghan defence minister-designate Mohammed Fahim on Thursday said the presence of the 3000-strong international peacekeeping force is 'symbolic', bringing to fore the interim administration's sharp differences with the United Nations on the role of the force in Afghanistan.

Reports said that out of the 3000 UN-mandated foreign soldiers to be deployed in Afghanistan over the next six months, only about 1000 would be engaged in peacekeeping duties, while the remaining would assist in humanitarian aid efforts.

"They are here because they want to be. But their presence is as a symbol," Fahim was quoted as saying by a news agency.

Fahim said that ensuring security for the Afghans is the responsibility of his administration, the report added.

Fahim's reported statement puts his administration on a collision course with the UN, which sees a more active role for the peace force.

The UN resolution said that it sees the initial peace force, numbering around 1,000 ground troops, increase its strength to 5,000 soldiers, with the right to use military force, if necessary.

The resolution added, "The situation in Afghanistan still constitutes a threat to international peace and security."

Fahim rejected the UN contention saying the peacekeepers will have no authority to disarm Afghans or interfere in the 'internal affairs of Afghanistan'.

Fahim said an armed Afghan police force would be in Kabul working with the peacekeepers, adding that 'the peacekeepers can patrol if they want to'.

The heavily armed units of northern alliance soldiers who swept into Kabul will be withdrawn from the streets, but they will not leave Kabul, Fahim said.

According to the Bonn agreement, the new Afghan regime is required to withdraw all military units from Kabul and areas in which the peace force would be deployed.

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