Annan intends to increase number of staff in Iraq, orders security review
Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced today that he intends to increase the number of United Nations staff in Iraq, which he cut back after last year's terrorist bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad, and has ordered a review of security conditions in the violence-wracked country in order to move as soon as practicable.
In a statement from his spokesman he referred to Security Council resolution 1546 of June this year, which calls on the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to play a "leading role" in assisting in national elections, scheduled for 30 January, as well as in developing civil and social services and in reconstruction.
"Stressing the high importance he attaches to the provision of essential security protection for the staff concerned, he has given instructions that the first steps be taken to assess the security conditions to establish UNAMI presence in Basra and in Erbil as soon as practicable," the statement said.
Both towns, the first in the south and the second in the north, are far from the central zone of Iraq, which has seen months of the fiercest insurgency against United States-led forces since they invaded in March last year to oust President Saddam Hussein.
The statement gave no indication of the size of the intended increase, but spokesman Fred Eckhard estimated that the current number of international personnel, now in the region of 59, would rise to about 200, including a contingent of Fijian troops deployed to protect them.
In reply to questions, Mr. Eckhard said the UN hoped to bring the number of electoral personnel up to 29.
Mr. Annan withdrew most of the 650 international staff in Iraq after a terrorist attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003 killed 22 people, including top envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, and he has repeatedly stressed that staff security is of paramount concern in deciding on any large-scale return.
Hundreds of local personnel, meanwhile, have been helping to carry out the UN's multiple relief operations, while much of the mission's command structure was moved to Amman in neighbouring Jordan.