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UN expands international relief presence in Baghdad

UN expands international relief presence in Baghdad

UNICEF trucks heading into Iraq
United Nations relief agencies continued to expand their international operations in Iraq today, five days after returning from a war-imposed absence of six weeks, regaining the use of some offices, confronting the destruction of others, and ready to collaborate with American authorities to prevent duplication of humanitarian efforts.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ramiro Lopes da Silva, held a symbolic ribbon cutting ceremony at the Baghdad offices of the World Health Organization to express the UN's appreciation to the national staff for the job they did rehabilitating the offices, which had been severely looted.

But the damage to other UN offices is severe. In the UN Development Programme (UNDP) compound, which also hosts the offices of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the effects of looting are glaringly evident: furniture, equipment, doors, windows are all gone. Out of the five buildings only one has not been burnt. All the others are seriously damaged.

At a weekend press briefing, in Baghdad Mr. Lopes da Silva said he would meet in the coming days with Iraqi bureaucrats in various technical ministries so that they can guide the UN in trying to establish urgent needs and how they can best be addressed.

He added that in that process his office intended to establish collaborative relations with the United States-run Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. "Our aim here is not to replace the administration," he said. "The administration of the country is the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and we intend to establish with that organism a collaborative and close relationship so we know what are their plans, they know what are our plans and we make sure that we fill gaps. Our duty is to fill gaps, not to duplicate efforts."