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Insecurity Prevents Un From Sending Staff To Iraq


New York, Oct 20 2004 6:00PM

The United Nations commission for the Middle East is eager to respond to requests by Iraqi officials seeking a stronger presence by the world body in the country, but the security situation remains too unstable, a senior UN official based in the region said today.

"The news coming from Iraq is disturbing - a lot of casualties, a lot of attacks, and it doesn't stop," said Mervat Tallawy, Executive Director of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

Numerous Iraqi ministers were calling for an expanded UN presence, she noted, but Secretary-General Kofi Annan had to protect his staff.

For its part, ESCWA is hoping to go to Iraq, "but every time the situation is not allowing us, it is deteriorating, so we also cannot risk losing our colleagues."

Away from Baghdad, it is difficult to measure the impact of the reconstruction effort, she said in response to questions, adding "Anyway, we are hoping that the situation would calm down so we can be in a position to answer the requests by the Iraqis."

Currently, ESCWA is working to train students from Iraq in Amman, Jordan, and other neighbouring capitals. "We are doing our best under circumstances where we cannot go in," she said.

Ms. Tallawy also reported on the recent ESCWA-supported Arab-International Forum on Palestine which aimed to galvanize action to benefit Palestinians living under occupation. Multi-million dollar initiatives were announced to help improve the situation in Gaza, rehabilitate the agricultural sector and replant olive trees that had been uprooted during Israeli incursions.

More important than the final pledges, she said, was the opening of channels of communication between those inside the occupied territory and those on the outside. "There was a lot of enthusiasm and support which moved the Palestinian representative," she said.

2004-10-20 00:00:00.000

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