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High Commissioner in Pakistan

Briefing notes

High Commissioner in Pakistan

4 March 2003

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers continues his mission in Pakistan today, meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri and Minister of Interior Faisal Saleh Hayat. This afternoon, he planned to meet President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Mr. Lubbers arrived in Pakistan on Sunday following a five - day visit in Afghanistan.

Mr. Lubbers met Monday with the minister for the frontier regions and northern areas, Mr. Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, who oversees UNHCR's main government partner agency in Pakistan. They agreed that Pakistan would be prepared to sign a tripartite agreement later on this month in Geneva on the return of Afghan refugees, together with the Afghan government and UNHCR. This year, we plan to facilitate the return of up to 600,000 Afghan refugees from Pakistan, out of the 1.2 million refugees we expect to voluntarily go back. UNHCR also plans to aid another 300,000 displaced Afghans still inside the country to return home as well.

Over the last month, all UNHCR repatriation staff in Pakistan underwent refresher training. We have also just established four sites in Pakistan and one location inside Afghanistan where returning refugees will undergo iris recognition scanning using new technology. Together with our other verification techniques, the iris recognition systems will further reduce the possibility of Afghans seeking additional repatriation assistance after having previously repatriated to their homeland.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), Mr. Lubbers travels to Iran, where he is scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Kharrazi and Mr. Lari, Minister of the Interior. He is scheduled to meet in the evening with President Khatami. Thursday morning, Mr. Lubbers will travel to Ahwaz in western Iran, a region hosting many of Iran's 202,000 Iraqi refugees. He will visit some of the sites currently hosting the long - time Iraqi refugees, and meet with provincial and Red Crescent Society officials in the region.

Mr. Lubbers returns to Geneva on Friday. This is his fourth trip to the region since becoming High Commissioner in 2001.