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Don't hit civilians, Afghan diplomat urges US

Afghan refugees fled into Pakistan as their fear US attacks

(Keystone)

The most senior representative of the former Afghan government in Switzerland has urged the United States not to target civilians if it launches military action against his country, saying his countrymen had no direct involvement in last week's atrocities in the US.

Humayun Tandar, Afghanistan's representative to the United Nations in Geneva, said his government was "completely ready to cooperate with the Americans" in combating terrorism.

Only a handful of countries around the world recognise the Taliban. However most countries do recognise the Afghan opposition, which occupies diplomatic missions around the world, including the one in Geneva.

"If they attack Osama bin Laden's bases, we would be among the first to welcome it," Tandar said.

"But we fear that they will target Afghan civilians, who have absolutely nothing to do with the attacks in America," he told swissinfo, pointing out that none of the 19 alleged hijackers who flew passenger jets into the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington was Afghan. Neither, he said, is bin Laden, the presumed mastermind, whom Washington is demanding that Taliban hand over.

Weary of war

"There's nothing left to destroy in Afghanistan. All that's left are Afghans who've had to endure years of war, foreign occupation, extremism and terrorism. They shouldn't have to endure a massive American attack," Tandar said.

The diplomat said the 3,000-strong Afghan community in Switzerland was already in a state of shock following the assassination - almost certainly on the orders of bin Laden - of the charismatic opposition commander, Ahmad Shah Masud.

Given the possibility of American military action against their country, those feelings have turned to a mixture of concern for the safety of their compatriots inside Afghanistan and fears of a backlash against the expatriate community. Tandar says his mission has already received threats from the public.

He said the United States should join forces "politically, economically and militarily" with the Afghan opposition to put an end to terrorism. He said until now, despite the threat posed by the Taliban, the Americans had abandoned his country, leaving it "in the hands of the Pakistani secret service".

"Like it not, we are in the same boat now, and we must ensure that boat reaches port, and that will require cooperation," Tandar said.

"The United States needs to reflect on what is the best way to put a stop to this terrorism. The ball is in Washington's court, not in the mountains of Afghanistan," he added.

by Roy Probert

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