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UN May Airdrop Food to Afghanistan

November 27, 1997

ROME (AP) _ U.N. officials might use planes to deliver food to tens of thousands of people in part of central Afghanistan beseiged by the Taliban religious army.

The U.N. World Food Program said the Taliban had initially promised to allow the trucks to safely pass through Taliban-controlled territory en route to Bamyan province, which is controlled by opposition fighters, as long as the food only went to civilians.

But when U.N. officials met with the Taliban on Tuesday, they were informed the blockade would remain, the Rome-based agency said.

Some 1.2 million people are affected by the blockade and 160,000 of them, mainly displaced people and farmers who lost their crops, risk famine and starvation, it said.

Forty trucks loaded with 600 tons of wheat have remained in Kabul, the Afghani capital.

The agency said it is considering airdrops, but that would cost considerably more than overland delivery and money would have to be diverted from other humanitarian activities.

The Taliban, which endorses strict Islamic law, captured Kabul in September 1996 and controls most of Afghanistan. It is fighting an opposition alliance largely made up of minority Shiite, Tajik and Uzbek minority groups.

The opposition alliance, which controls only about 10 percent of the country, is battling to prevent the Taliban from instituting its harsh brand of Islamic law nationwide.

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