Expelled European diplomats leave Afghanistan

thecheers.org    2007-12-27 07:23:15    

Two expelled diplomats working with the United Nations and the European Union Mission in Afghanistan left the country on Thursday morning after the Afghan government accused them of having held a meeting with the Taliban, officials said.
Kabul (dpa) - Two expelled diplomats working with the United Nations and the European Union Mission in Afghanistan left the country on Thursday morning after the Afghan government accused them of having held a meeting with the Taliban, officials said.

"I can confirm that one of our staff members left the country," Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

A member of the EU mission, who would only speak on condition of anonymity, also confirmed that an official working with the mission had left the country before the expiration of the 48-hour deadline set by the Afghan government.

The Afghan government ordered two European diplomats, Michael Semple and Mervyn Patterson, to leave the country within 48 hours after accusing them of holding talks with Taliban militants in the Musa Qala district of the southern province of Helmand.

Semple, an Irishman, is the second top senior official working for the EU mission and currently its acting head, while Patterson, who is British, works for the UN as an expert in tribal affairs.

Presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada accused the pair on Tuesday of "posing threats to (Afghanistan's) national security."

"While we fully respect the government of Afghanistan's decision, we do believe that there is no basis to such a decision," Siddique said. Following the military operation the UN agencies had gone to the area to assist the people, he said.

One of the tasks of UN staff was to talk to local people "about what their needs are, what their concerns are about the situation, and that means to talk to people who are favourable towards the government of Afghanistan and also talking to people who are less favourable towards the government of Afghanistan," according to Siddique.

"However that doesn't mean that we were there to talk to Taliban, that was not what we were doing in Helmand province," Siddique said.

"It is unfortunate that those efforts seem to have been misunderstood by Afghan authorities, and that is what we are rectifying at the moment through the ongoing dialogue with the government of Afghanistan," Siddique said.

"Negotiations are now ongoing so that we can seek the return of this very able and capable staff member so we could continue the hugely important effort of building peace in this country."

The two diplomats have more than 10 years of experience working in Afghanistan.

A former official, who worked at the Foreign Ministry under the Taliban regime, told dpa that Semple had visited Afghanistan during the Taliban time and had a good relationship with Taliban leaders.

"I saw Simple many times in Afghanistan and in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taliban," the former Taliban official said on condition of anonymity.

"He had [a] good relationship with Taliban leaders as well as with Hamid Karzai, who was himself a support[er] of [the] Taliban," he said.


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