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Following allegations, several UN staff leave Iraq 'for their own safety'

Following allegations, several UN staff leave Iraq 'for their own safety'

The United Nations has withdrawn several staff members from Iraq "for their own safety" after Baghdad made allegations against them, a UN spokesman announced today.

"On September 2, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry informed the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq that it had declared five international UN staff members working in Baghdad as persona non grata and that was because, the Foreign Ministry claimed, they were involved in activities that infringed on the national security of Iraq," spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters in New York.

Baghdad has not responded however to a request for more information by the Executive Director of the Iraq Programme, Benon Sevan, who, in a letter to the country's Permanent Representative to the UN, said that in order to respond to the allegations, the Secretary-General must receive all details and evidence of the charges against the staff members.

"In light of these developments it was decided that for their own safety the staff members leave Iraq as soon possible," said Mr. de Almeida e Silva. He noted that the three who had been in Iraq are now in Amman, while the others were not in the country when the allegations were made.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that a six-member WHO team has just returned from Baghdad after holding discussions about potential project proposals to improve health surveillance and strengthen cancer control.

The discussions culminated in the formulation of draft proposals aimed at enhancing the registration of cancers, congenital malformation and renal disorders. In addition, draft proposals were put forward concerning a plan for controlling cancer and other non-communicable diseases, and "the study of environmental and other risk factors (including depleted uranium) to health," WHO said.

The agency said that over the next two weeks, "these proposals will be carefully reviewed within WHO" in collaboration with other concerned UN bodies.

In another development, the Office of the Iraq Programme announced today that the Security Council committee monitoring the sanctions against Baghdad has not yet decided on the price of the country's crude oil sold to the United States market during September. A pricing mechanism for the European market has been approved for the first half of the month, while the approved pricing mechanism for the Far East covers all of September.