| GEO Pakistan|
| Pakistan extends 2 mln Afghan refugees repatriation deadline|
| Updated at: 2221 PST, Friday, August 29, 2008|
ISLAMABAD: United Nations says Pakistan has agreed to extend deadline for the repatriation of two million Afghan refugees.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, on Thursday told a foreign TV channel there was now a consensus that deadline of 2009 was "unrealistic".
Given poor economic and security situation in Afghanistan, three to five years seemed more practical, he said.
Guterres also said that UN was set to launch an international appeal for up to 300,000 Pakistanis displaced by an ongoing military campaign against the Taliban.
Pakistan, the UN and Afghanistan had a plan to repatriate 2.4million Afghan refugees by end of 2009 on condition that the process was voluntary.
But Guterres said UN had agreed with Pakistani government on the principles of a new strategy which would avoid a hard deadline and instead plan for a more general repatriation period.
"I think that three to five years is a good horizon to establish planning figures for our work and that is what we will now have to see in detail with Pakistan government," he said.
During this time UN would increase efforts to improve living conditions in Afghanistan and undertake projects in Pakistan to ease burden of hosting refugees, he said.
Guterres also said UN planned to launch international appeal next week for hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis displaced by fighting near Afghan border.
"It is indeed a humanitarian crisis if you have such levels of displacement in an area with instability, with insecurity, it is very difficult to fully respond to this challenge," he said.