U.N. agency: 3 million in Afghanistan 'at grave risk'
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- A top official for the U.N.'s relief agency Sunday said three million people in Afghanistan "are at grave risk."
Filippo Grandi, chief of mission in Afghanistan for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said up to three million may be going hungry or may lack other necessities, such as medicine and shelter.
People are said to be moving out of cities throughout Afghanistan and headed to the countryside. Some may have only one solution to survival -- crossing the border.
Relief officials say hundreds of thousands of Afghanis may head to the Iranian border if there is an outbreak of fighting or a breakdown in law and order. At the moment, they say, there is no buildup of refugees, but there have been refugees that have crossed the Iran-Afghan border at various points.
About 2.3 million Afghan refugees already live in Iran. They had arrived there in previous months and years because of drought and warfare.
In Cairo, Egypt, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi Sunday said Iran was expecting international aid for the refugees already in Iran and the thousands camped along its border in Afghanistan.
Kharazi met with Egyptian officials, including Egypt President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher.
"It is an international obligation to assist, and Iran already has 2 million refugees. And they (international humanitarian agencies) have to rush to help these poor people," Kharazi said in a joint news conference with Maher.
He said Iran would not be opening its doors to more refugees, but would be assisting refugees who are in camps on the Afghan side of the border.
UNHCR has urged the government to open its borders if there is a huge crush of people.
On the Pakistan-Afghan border, U.N. aid convoys from Peshawar in Pakistan carrying food and supplies headed for Afghanistan Sunday.
The convoys are the first to depart for Afghanistan since the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The U.N.'s World Food Program's convoy is carrying wheat to Kabul. The UNICEF convoy is carrying supplies, including schoolbooks, to Northern Alliance-controlled Afghanistan.
"We are sending about 200 tons of food supplies from Peshawar to Kabul," said Khaled Mansour, of the U.N.'s World Food Program. "We will be also sending more food to the western part of country and, hopefully by Monday also, from Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, into the northern part of the country.
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