A top United Nations official involved in deciding when staff should fully return to Iraq said on Friday it was hard to envision such a move until security improved.
“IT IS HARD to envision we would be able to carry out the full range of activities we would like to do....until security improves,” Kevin Kennedy, chief of the Humanitarian Emergency Branch of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told Reuters.
Kennedy and other top U.N. officials were meeting in Cyprus to make a recommendation to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the return of staff to Iraq.
Most staff were pulled out after an August 19 attack on the organization’s headquarters in Baghdad killed 22 staff and visitors, including the head of the operation, Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Kennedy said the discussions would end at the weekend when a recommendation would be made to Annan.
“The security situation is not uniform throughout the country and there are parts where we can work — more safe and secure than other parts,” Kennedy said.
“It is not a uniform picture and we’ll adjust operations region by region.”
After the August attack, Annan drastically reduced staff in Iraq and earlier this month withdrew the last 20 from Baghdad after a week of violence that included the bombing of the Baghdad headquarters of the International Committee for the Red Cross.
Annan also put two security officials on leave after an independent panel issued a scathing report on safety precautions before the August bombing of the Baghdad U.N. offices.
“Everybody is concerned about their security...I think people are also frustrated because there is important work to do and (we) are unable to do it to the extent we would like to at the moment. It’s frustrating,” said Kennedy.
About 40 or so foreign staff remain in northern Iraq where it is safer. Some 4,000 Iraqi staff are still on the U.N. payroll throughout Iraq.
Asked if it was unlikely there would be a full return of international staff, Kennedy replied: “I wouldn’t say it’s unlikely and there are a variety of ways to go back — longer term, shorter term or visits. We hope to be back as soon as we possibly can.”
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