Wednesday, April 18, 2007

All right: the UN returns to Iraq

This is good because although it's limited right now increased UN involvement raises the chances that there'll be a handover of power from the U.S. to the UN in Iraq in the future.

"Pressure is building within the United Nations for the gradual return of expatriate relief staff to Iraq to organise aid despite the ongoing violence there, officials said Wednesday.

The UN refugee agency is in the course of boosting its permanent presence in Iraq to two people, including one in Baghdad, while the UN's humanitarian coordination office last week gained approval for a strategic plan outlining a return to Iraq, aid chiefs said.

"UNHCR has already decided to upgrade our presence in Iraq. We will have an international presence in Baghdad. And we will increase our operations in the country," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said after a two-day conference on Iraq's displacement crisis.

"We know there are difficulties, there are security concerns, but there are things we can do and it's time to do our best to take profit of all opportunities to help really the people in distress," he told journalists.

John Holmes, the world body's new Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, told the meeting Tuesday: "We cannot afford to look away and duck our responsibilities. I can assure you that the UN system will certainly not do so.""

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