UN Radio Reports on Relief Effort for Iraqis
UN Humanitarian Agencies Update on Relief Effort for Iraqi Civilians
Secretary-General Calls for the Humane Treatment of POW's
The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has today reminded the belligerents in the Iraqi war of their responsibilities for the safety and welfare of civilians. Mr. Annan called in particular for the humane treatment of all prisoners of war, under the rules of the Geneva Convention:
"The prisoners of war have to be treated humanely and in accordance with international law and I think both sides have a responsibility to ensure that this is done and send a message to the combatants that they do have a responsibility to treat the prisoners of war humanely."
The Secretary-General rejected this weekend's accusations from Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan that he had become a colonialist high commissioner:
"I can understand the anger, the frustration, the exasperation of Mr. Ramadan and maybe other Iraqis. Their country is at war and these sort of sentiments and anger is something that is understandable. The UN or I have no interest in becoming a high commisioner and it is ironic that as a former colonial subject, I'll be accused of being a colonialist."
Mr Annan stressed the important role of the UN-run Oil-for-Food programme in Iraq at this particularly difficult time:
"We should not forget that 60 per cent of them have been dependent on the Oil-for-Food scheme and this is why the Council and myself are determined to do whatever we can to keep that pipeline open. The UN will do whatever it can to help the Iraqi population and we would want to resume the Oil-for-Food as soon as possible."
The Secretary-General further denied allegations that the pull-out of UN personnel from Iraq had paved the way for American-led forces to attack Iraq, adding that whilst many nations withdrew their diplomatic personnel from Baghdad earlier, the UN stayed on until the very last day before the war started.
The ICRC to Seek Meeting with POW's
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross says it is currently in negotiations with the Coalition Forces and Iraqi officials to gain access to the prisoners of war. The ICRC says that the prisoners are entitled to visits by its officials and they should also be allowed to send messages to their families. ICRC Spokesman Roland Benjamin:
"This should not take much time. We are here, we are present - we are able to go and do it as soon as permission is granted by both parties."
UN Responds to US Missile Attack on Syrian Civilians
Still on Iraq, the UN Office for Humanitarian Coordination has responded to the American missile attack on a civilian bus carrying Syrian nationals near a border crossing point in Rutba. At least three people are known to have been killed and more than a dozen others were injured in the attack. UN Humanitarian spokesman David Wimhurst:
"This deadly event underlines yet again the enormous responsibility the combatant forces bear regarding the security and safety of civilians. Third country nationals and those wishing to seek refuge in a neighbouring country have every right to leave Iraq without being attacked by parties to the conflict."