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Wednesday, April 1, 1998 Published at 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK

World: S/W Asia

Unicef plea for Taleban rethink on Afghan women

The Taleban are facing increasing international pressure over their attitudes to women

The head of the United Nations Children's Fund, Unicef, Carol Bellamy, is meeting with Taleban authorities in the Afghan capital of Kabul to discuss equal educational and health opportunities for women and girls.

The Taleban purists who control two-thirds of war-torn Afghanistan, forbid mixed education and say the country cannot afford separate schools for girls until peace is restored.

Ms Bellamy said: ""At Unicef and indeed the UN, we believe that there ought to be equity in education, which means all children will have the opportunity to go to school to have a good education and receive a degree."

Concern at treatment of UN staff

She said she was also keen to discuss with the Taleban authorities recent incidents which led the UN to pull out all staff in the southern Kandahar region of the country.

The staff had complained that Taleban officials interfered in their work and harassed their staff but the charges were denied.

Ms Bellamy added: "We are concerned about the conditions in which UN people are working."

A Taleban foreign affairs spokesman said he hoped the meetings with the head of Unicef would help solve the misunderstandings between the UN and the Taleban.

Ms Bellamy will meet senior Taleban officials and tour areas of Kabul before travelling to the eastern city of Jalalabad on Thursday.

She will not be visiting any areas held by the anti-Taleban alliance in the north of the country; the UN has not operated there since September last year because of insecurity in non-Taleban areas.

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