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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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In Afghanistan, UN's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Taliban Approach, Mortgages on the Horizon

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 15 -- In Afghanistan, the UN "keeps contact with everyone, without asking him or her if they are Taliban or not," UN envoy Tom Koenigs said on Monday. Inner City Press had asked about Iran's chiding of the UK and others reaching out to the Taliban. "We advocate peaceful means," Koenigs answered, adding that the international community's work "must re-enforce the legitimacy of the Afghan government." Video here, from Minute 4:28. Hamid Karzai has recently made entreaties to the Taliban, which have been rebuffed.

    Koenigs on Monday confirmed that he has told Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that he wants to leave his post by the end of the year. Asked about retirement, he joked about a newspaper article about golf courses. Perhaps because he is leaving, he apologized to Inner City Press: "Last time I told you we had a law" in Afghanistan about private security firms like Blackwater. Video here, from Minute 9:23. "I informed you wrongly... We have a regulation, but it still has to be turned into a law." Since then, a scholar described this process for Inner City Press, reported here. Will the projected law be enacted and in force before Mr. Koenigs leaves the country? We'll see.

            It must be noted that even the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that Afghanistan in 2007 will produce more opium that any other country at any time since their began keeping statistics. Still, as Foreign Policy points out, "only" seven percent of arable land in Afghanistan is devote to poppy production. Can this all be blamed on the Taliban? It seems doubtful.

Mud home, mortgage not shown

            Finally, for now, even as the world economy reels from the crisis of high-falutin subprime mortgage finance in the United States, the Afghan government is reportedly beginning its own mortgage scheme in "New Kabul," hoping that some of the 14 banks in the country choose to buy real estate developments and sell them on installment, presumably in keeping with Sharia law. We'll see.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540