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Plan Envisions Afghan Return

October 12, 2001

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CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ A U.N. refugee official said Thursday that member governments will help pay for the return of millions of Afghan refugees if the Taliban regime is toppled by the U.S.-led military campaign.

``Governments will finance the return of these people to Afghanistan and monitor the situation on their return from inside the country,″ said Vincent Cochetel, head of the Cairo office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

But Cochetel said voluntary repatriation could happen only when there is peace in strife-torn Afghanistan.

Afghan asylum seekers _ many of whom undergo screening to determine if they are bona fide refugees _ will not be repatriated if they have been found to have committed war crimes, he said.

Millions of Afghans have fled their homeland in the past two decades, many to neighboring Iran and Pakistan. Others sought asylum farther afield, including in Egypt, where some 200 Afghans live. Some 5 million Afghans are believed to be living outside their country.

Aid workers in Pakistan and Iran are anticipating the arrival of up to 400,000 more Afghans fleeing ongoing violence and the U.S. air strikes. The United Nations says 900,000 Afghans have been displaced internally by civil war, drought and hunger.

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