U.N. halts some work in northwest Pakistan

Image: UNHCR tent school
Children displaced from restive Buner, Lower Dir and Swat region where Pakistani forces are engaged in an operation against Taliban, attend lessons at a tent-school set up by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Mardan, North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, May 14.Rashid Iqbal / EPA file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Citing security concerns, the U.N. suspended long-term development work in two key areas along Pakistan's volatile border with Afghanistan on Monday, a blow to international efforts to counter the country's rising militancy.

The decision, which applies to Pakistan's tribal areas and North West Frontier Province, comes amid a wave of recent attacks in the country that killed some 250 people last month. Eleven U.N. staff have been killed in attacks in Pakistan this year.

The U.N. will reduce the level of international staff in the country and confine its work to emergency, humanitarian relief, and security operations, and also "any other essential operations as advised by the secretary-general," the organization said in a statement.

U.N. spokeswoman Amena Kamaal told The Associated Press that the organization is still determining which programs will be suspended and how many staffers will be withdrawn from the country. The staff that remains in the country will be assigned additional security, she said.

"We have had 11 of our colleagues killed because of the security situation," said Kamaal. "All of the decisions are being made in light of that."

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said he would reserve comment until he had a chance to review the U.N.'s statement.