Afghanistan Annan delighted at release of three abducted UN election workers

Mr. Annan spoke by phone to all three – Shqipe Hebibi, Annetta Flanigan and Angelito Nayan – who were seized by gunmen from their UN vehicle on 28 October in the Afghan capital of Kabul, where they had been working on the country’s first-ever presidential election under contract to the UN Development Programme (UNDP). “He is profoundly relieved that their ordeal and the anxiety of their families and friends are now ended,” his spokesman said in a statement issued in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where the Secretary-General is attending an international conference on Iraq. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported that the three – from Kosovo, Northern Ireland and the Philippines, respectively – seemed fine, were in good spirits and would join family members soon.Mr. Annan also phoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai to thank him for the crucial role his Government played in securing the release of the three, voiced gratitude to the people of Afghanistan for their outpouring of sympathy and support, and praised the “courage, dedication and solidarity” of the UN family in a call to his Special Representative, Jean Arnault. “The Afghan people have high expectations and hopes with regard to the role of the United Nations,” the statement concluded. “The United Nations system will continue to work to strengthen the security of its staff in order to enable it to fulfil the organization’s mandate to further peace, reconstruction and democracy in Afghanistan.” In Kosovo, Mr. Annan’s Special Representative in the UN-administered province, Søren Jessen-Petersen, and Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi visited Ms. Hebibi’s family, who thanked the Kosovo Government and UN for their efforts in the case.”This is a very happy day for the family of Ms. Hebibi, for Kosovo and for the UN and UNMIK (UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo),” Mr. Jessen-Petersen said. “We wanted to come over here to share the joy and happiness of the family. We are so delighted that they will soon have her back in Kosovo.”

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