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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Blow for Short in battle with Pentagon Military wants US firms to run Iraq's hospitals Charlotte Denny, economics correspondent Saturday March 22, 2003 The Guardian Clare Short returned empty handed from Washington yesterday as Britain's efforts to put the United Nations in charge of reconstructing post-war Iraq ran into opposition from the Pentagon. Amid signs of widening divisions off the battlefield between the US and its closest ally, Whitehall officials expressed concern that America's military planners appear to be cutting the UN out of any political role in favour of its own plan to put a retired general, Jay Garner, in the driving seat. Ms Short had hoped to secure agreement on a security council resolution which would have given the UN the leading role in rebuilding the shattered country. But after two days of meeting with Kofi Annan and leading UN officials in New York, and state department officials in Washington, the international development secretary returned home with the issue unresolved. "They see a new resolution as cover for their activities rather than a route to enabling the UN to coordinate reconstruction," said one Whitehall official. President George Bush promised Tony Blair at the Azores summit that the UN would have a key role after the war ends. But the Pentagon believes this should be confined to humanitarian assistance and is pressing ahead with its own plans, which would put US companies in charge of the country's schools and hospitals. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the US agency for international development has called for American companies to bid for more than $1bn (£640m) worth of reconstruction contracts, including running health and education services. Without a UN resolution, Whitehall lawyers say that the US and UK occupying forces would have no legal right to run the country's institutions. "There is no legal mandate for that sort of activity," said one Whitehall official. "It's all quite bizarre." While state department officials are believed to be sympathetic to the British vision, the Pentagon is determined to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people by branding the postwar reconstruction effort with an American flag. America has set up its own office for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance as part of the department of defence. UN officials have warned that they have no intention of acting as a fig leaf for a US occupying authority. "We can't have a scenario where the US says this is what is needed, now you guys get on and do it," said one UN official. Mark Malloch Brown, the head of the UN development agency, said this week that UN agencies could not act as "sub-contractors" to the US government. The Pentagon's plans have alarmed aid agencies, which are concerned about the precedent it would set and the likely political fallout throughout the Middle East. "We are worried that the US believes and acts like it can replace the UN in delivery of humanitarian aid and reconstruction," said Justin Forsyth, head of policy at Oxfam. "We don't believe they have the skills or the legitimacy." The disagreements between Britain and the US extend even to who should be in charge of the immediate humanitarian work as the battle rages. Washington is boasting that its soldiers will double as mobile aid workers, bringing rations to the vulnerable population, 60% of whom depend on food handed out by the UN's oil for food programme. "We don't want our aid equipment to be offloaded off the back of a US military lorry, because if we were to do that we would be seen as part of a belligerent force," said Mr Forsyth. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk