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UN top Iraq envoy arrives food distribution begins


Top UN envoy for Iraq arrives in Baghdad; food distribution resumes

The top United Nations envoy for Iraq arrived in Baghdad today pledging to assist in the “critical efforts” to quickly establish a representative Iraqi government, as UN-supplied food rations again began reaching the civilian population.

“We have to move quickly for the issues are urgent,” Sergio Vieira de Mello, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Iraq, told journalists upon his arrival in Baghdad. “But we must also move intelligently, in concert with the wishes of the Iraqi people and avoiding duplication of efforts,” he said of his forthcoming talks with the United States-run authority.

Mr. Vieira de Mello, whose mandate stems from last month’s Security Council resolution calling on Mr. Annan to appoint a special representative to work with the occupying authority, said his only purpose “is to try to ensure that the United Nations does all that it can to help the people of Iraq out of what has been a terrible period in their long and noble history.”

He outlined the tasks ascribed to the UN in its Iraqi mission, ranging from reconstruction to refugee return, to economic development, to legal and judicial reform, to civilian administration, to humanitarian relied and human rights.

“And one of the most important tasks that the United Nations will seek to assist in, however best it can, are the critical efforts to establish representative governance,” he declared. “The day when Iraqis govern themselves must come quickly.”

Mr. Vieira de Mello said that in the coming days he would meet with the broadest possible spectrum of Iraqis, including political, religious and civic personalities, with the US-run authority and with various UN aid agencies, to draw up a “clear picture” of how best the UN and the international community can help Iraq.

Meanwhile on the humanitarian front, food brought to the country by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has begun reaching Iraqis for the first time since the country’s public distribution system was disrupted by the war in March. The Iraqi Ministry of Trade began distribution yesterday, as nearly 27 million Iraqis nationwide will receive their food rations from 44,000 distribution agents across the country this month.

So far, WFP has brought in about 440,000 tons of food to help re-activate this vital social safety net in a country where 16 million people are believed to be entirely dependent on monthly food rations after two decades of wars and stringent economic sanctions.

“With the restoration of the public distribution system, we are confident that we can avert any hunger among Iraqis,” WFP Executive Director James T. Morris said. “With generous donor support and resources available from the Oil-for-Food programme, WFP has been able to launch one of its largest logistics operations ever.”

The UN agency said it would continue to bring in enough food commodities using available donor funds and re-negotiated contracts concluded under the Oil-for-Food programme to keep the monthly food rationing system fully operational for the coming six months, during which time it plans to bring in about 2.2 million tons.


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