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Friday, April 17, 1998 Published at 06:25 GMT 07:25 UK


UN presses for Afghanistan peace
image: [ Young girls play in the streets of Kabul since they are not allowed to go to school ]
Young girls play in the streets of Kabul since they are not allowed to go to school

The United States ambassador to the UN, Bill Richardson, has arrived in the Afghan capital Kabul for talks with the Taleban authorities. He is the most senior American official to visit Afghanistan for 20 years.

During his one-day visit he will also be travelling to the north of the country to speak to some of the leaders of the anti-Taleban alliance. The BBC correspondent in Afghanistan, William Reeve, reports:

Bill Richardson's brief visit was arranged to support the current peace initiative of the UN special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, and arriving at Kabul airport Mr Richardson said attempts were being made to get peace negotiations started right away.

[ image: Richardson: concern for
Richardson: concern for "this troubled country"
He also said he hoped a ceasefire could be arranged, as well as reconciliation in what he called this very troubled country.

Mr Richardson said Afghanistan deserved more attention from the international community and he said he believed the Afghan people want the war in their country to end, but that they need help.

During his brief stop in Kabul, Mr Richardson is holding talks with the second-most senior Taleban leader, Mullah Mohammed Rabbani.

He said these discussions will be tough, as he will be raising the issue of women's rights and also the position of Osama bin Laden, the society billionaire whom America accuses of international terrorism.

Osama bin Laden has lived under Taleban sanctuary for the past 18 months.

The Taleban, for their part, said they hoped Mr Richardson's visit will help remove the misunderstandings between the movement and western countries.

Mr Richardson is also making a brief visit to the American Embassy in Kabul, which has remained empty for many years.

Here he wants to pay homage to Adolf Dubs, the last American ambassador to Afghanistan, who was murdered in a Kabul hotel in 1979.

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