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Aid Groups Reduce Operations in Iraq U.N., Red Cross, Others to Withdraw Staff as a Result of Truck Bombing By Daniel Williams Washington Post Foreign Service Friday, August 22, 2003; Page A14 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A27363-2003Aug21.html BAGHDAD, Aug. 21 -- Independent humanitarian operations in Iraq began to erode today as the United Nations announced a reduction of about a third of its Baghdad headquarters staff, the International Committee of the Red Cross said that an unspecified number of foreign workers would be withdrawn and other organizations considered changes in personnel or security arrangements. Two days after a truck bomb exploded at U.N. headquarters here, taking the lives of at least 23 workers and visitors, the organization's coordinator of humanitarian programs, Ramiro Lopez da Silva, said that the administrative staff would shrink from about 300 to 200. Those who leave Baghdad will take up duties related to Iraq in Jordan and Cyprus, he told reporters. Other headquarters staff members will resume work at an unspecified location on Saturday, da Silva said. The Canal Hotel, which served as the main U.N. office here, was badly damaged by the truck bomb, and U.S. soldiers continued to search for one missing person among the slabs of concrete, broken ceilings and shattered glass. U.N. officials said they would beef up security at their new location but would not request large numbers of U.S. or allied forces. U.N. officials say they don't want their facilities to look like an armed camp. "We always remain a soft target, and we are conscious of that," da Silva told reporters. "We cannot create a division between us and the people we serve. The presence of coalition forces does intimidate some of the people we need to work with." A spokeswoman for the Red Cross, Nada Doumani, said her organization had decided to withdraw some expatriates. The Red Cross had taken steps to limit travel of employees among Iraqi cities after one was killed in an ambush last month. Administrative staff members have dispersed to other Iraqi cities to avoid having to travel, she said. "It is all related to the local security situation, and actually to the security problem in the Middle East," Doumani said. The number of Baghdad Red Cross workers to be withdrawn was still being worked out, she added. Typically, if the United Nations and Red Cross reduce services or personnel in dangerous countries, other aid organizations follow. In Baghdad, foreign relief groups were keeping a low profile. The only reports of a shutdown involved the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Each withdrew its small staff from Iraq Wednesday. Aid agencies perform numerous functions that indirectly ease the pressure on the U.S. administration in Iraq to provide basic services. The U.N. World Food Program feeds millions of Iraqis, and a variety of organizations provide health care, sanitation and clean water. The U.N. Development Program is working to fix Iraq's tattered electrical power network. Staff reductions seemed to be a common topic among aid agencies. The Italian Red Cross field hospital said it would reduce its workforce of 70 by about a third. The Italians broke Red Cross custom in April by placing armed police on the grounds of their hospital. Today, they were shoring up the perimeter with sand and cement blocks. "We decided that we needed to strengthen our passive defense," said Fabio Strinati, a hospital official. At the offices of CARE, a group that provides health and nutritional aid to children and is undertaking other rebuilding efforts, an official would say only: "We are staying. We just don't want to wave a banner about it." In the United States, Pat Carey, a CARE vice president, suggested that cutbacks could hurt the group's mission. "We're continuing our operations in Iraq and we intend to carry on with the programs that we currently have," he said. "But we do want to step back and think through the security implications." An official of a medical relief agency in Baghdad, who asked not to be identified, said: "The aid community is reluctant to speak much about leaving or cutting back. No one wants to start a stampede." A claim of responsibility for the explosion emerged today in a letter faxed to the Al-Arabiya satellite television network in Dubai. There was no way to confirm that the heretofore unknown group, the Armed Vanguards of the Second Army of Mohammed, actually carried out the attack -- or even exists -- but the letter said the attack was meant to shed "Crusader blood." The death toll of U.S. soldiers continued to rise. Wednesday night, a soldier from the 1st Armored Division was killed by a roadside blast, in a tactic that has become increasingly common. Sixty-three U.S. troops have been killed by hostile action since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1. Ahmed Ibrahim, the Iraqi deputy interior minister, appealed to Iraqis to inform the appropriate people of suspicious activities. "Iraqis protect themselves when they inform," he said. © 2003 The Washington Post Company _______________________________________________ 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