UN officials lift travel ban in Aceh

Kobe meet discusses disaster warning system


Banda Aceh, January 18:

The United Nations today lifted a travel ban on tsunami aid workers in Indonesia’s Aceh province, the scene of a decades-long conflict between government forces and separatist rebels that has raised concerns about the safety of relief efforts.

Meanwhile in Japan, international experts gathered at a conference to discuss a tsunami warning system for southern Asia in the wake of the December 26 disaster. Aid work for the tens of thousands made homeless picked up speed - with even war-battered Afghanistan lending a hand. A 20-strong team including 12 military doctors departed Kabul for Indonesia with medical equipment, blankets and dried fruit.

The United Nations yesterday imposed a travel ban in parts of the province following reports that fighting had broken out between insurgents and the Indonesian army - and after Denmark warned its aid workers to beware of an imminent terror attack. UN security consultant Werner Van den Berg said after meeting Indonesian police today that the 24-hour travel ban had been allowed to expire. There did not appear to be grounds “at the moment” for heightened alert, he said.

A UN conference that opened today in Kobe, Japan, sought ways to avert the impact of nature’s fury. “We must draw and act on every lesson we can,” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told participants in the World Conference on Disaster Reduction.