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Assistant High Commissioner travels to Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan

Briefing notes

Assistant High Commissioner travels to Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan

19 February 1999

UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner, Søren Jessen-Petersen - the organisation's third highest ranking official - is on a week-long tour of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The trip stems from UNHCR's increased concern about the plight of Afghan refugees - the largest single refugee group in UNHCR's care - and the continued lack of UN presence in Afghanistan.

Mr Jessen-Petersen will meet with Iranian and Pakistani officials, as well as with the Taliban leaders in Afghanistan's Kandahar region.

The talks will focus on an estimated 2 million Afghan refugees still in Iran and some 1.2 million in Pakistan, as well as concerns about UNHCR's inability to monitor the plight of those returning or being forcibly sent back to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. He will also address funding problems in meetings with representatives of donor nations.

Last August, all UN Agencies withdrew from Afghanistan, following the murder of an Italian UN peacekeeper and 2 national staff members of UNHCR and WFP. UNHCR's sees its return to Afghanistan as vital to monitor returns.