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UN meets top US civilian on security, food in Iraq

Top UN relief official in Iraq meets top US civilian on security, food procurement

The top United Nations relief official in Iraq met with the top United States civilian official there today to discuss the lack of security hampering UN relief efforts, and the use of money from the UN Oil-for-Food programme to pay Iraqi farmers for the upcoming spring harvest.

“From a UN perspective, our immediate concerns are related with security in the broad sense: law and order, not for us as persons but for the society,” Ramiro Lopes da Silva, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, told reporters after meeting in Baghdad with Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, head of the US-run Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.

For his part, Mr. Bremer said: “We had a very good discussion about the ways in which the United Nations and its specialized agencies can assist us in our programme of recovery here in Iraq…We had a very friendly and I think successful meeting.”

Among issues discussed was the possibility of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) paying Iraqi farmers for the current wheat and barley harvest with money from the Oil-for-Food programme, under which sanctions-bound Baghdad was allowed to use oil revenues to buy humanitarian supplies, Mr. Bremer added.

He said Mr. Lopes da Silva had agreed that the WFP begin spending that money as early as next week, in order to put money belonging to the Iraqi people under the programme into the hands of the farmers who are right now beginning their harvest.

Mr. Lopes da Silva again stressed the security issue. “Under Security Council Resolution 1472 (which adjusted the Oil-for-Food programme after hostilities broke out), we have the authority to undertake local procurement. We wish to engage in the local procurement of the incoming cereal harvest, but obviously an issue related with that undertaking is the overall law and order so we can move money, and the technicians from the Ministry of Trade can go around and do the purchasing.”

In answer to questions, Mr. Lopes da Silva said Mr. Bremer indicated that security “is in the top of his agenda, not only for our humanitarian work but even because of the impact it has on the political process.”

Asked whether he was satisfied there would be changes in the security situation, he replied: “Yes, I am satisfied with the commitment indicated by Ambassador Bremer to take a little bit of a more controlled approach to this situation. He committed himself to look at these issues; that is at the top of his agenda.”

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