UN envoy to Afghanistan, aid groups warn against burning Koran

UN envoy to Afghanistan, aid groups warn against burning Koran

The top United Nations envoy to Afghanistan warned Wednesday against a US church's plans to burn copies of the Koran, and aid agencies said it could cost lives of innocent civilians. dpa reported

An evangelical Christian congregation of only 50 members the US state of Florida plans the book burnings to mark Saturday's ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

"If such an abhorrent act were to be implemented, it would only contribute to fuelling the arguments of those who are indeed against peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan," Staffan de Mistura, the UN secretary-general's envoy to the country, said.

"It could also put in jeopardy the efforts of so many Afghans and foreigners who are trying to assist Afghanistan to find its own way to peace and stability within the framework of its own culture, traditions and, indeed, religion," he said.

The Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an umbrella group of local and international organizations, called on the organisers of "this irresponsible initiative to stop their plans with immediate effect."

"In the context of Afghanistan, where the situation remains precarious, such an initiative could cost the lives of innocent civilians and dedicated humanitarian workers," it said.

Hundreds of Afghan took to streets in Kabul Monday to condemn the church's plan. They burned US flags and shouted "Death to America."

The top commander for NATO forces in Afghanistan, US general David Petraeus, also criticised the church and said the Taliban could use the act to inspire its fight against foreign troops.

"Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult," Petraeus said.

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