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[casi] Short returns empty-handed!!

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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.

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