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UN rights chief laments 2009 Afghan civilian toll

GENEVA (AP) - The U.N. human rights chief is calling for better protection of Afghan civilians after the death toll rose last year to its highest level since the 2001 fall of the Taliban regime.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, says insurgents were responsible for most of the civilian casualties but that air strikes by international U.S.-led forces were still a problem, though new coalition directives appear to have reduced casualties from air strikes.

Pillay makes the comments in a report submitted Wednesday to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

U.S., NATO and Afghan forces are now stepping up operations in the south as the traditional summer fighting season begins.

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