UN staff temporarily relocating from Baghdad for security consultations – spokesperson
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked the UN international team in Baghdad to relocate temporarily for consultations on security arrangements, a UN spokesperson said today.
The spokesperson, Marie Okabe, said the venue for the meeting with a team from UN Headquarters in New York had not been definitively decided but that it probably would be Larnaca, Cyprus. She said the decision would not affect UN international personnel working in northern Iraq, who will remain at their posts.
Responding to questions from the press, Ms. Okabe said, “The Secretary-General has been keeping the situation in Iraq under constant and close review, particularly in light of the recent wave of violence in Baghdad, which included the attack on Monday on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).”
“In light of these developments, he has asked the small remaining team of international officials in Baghdad to come out temporarily for consultations with people from Headquarters, so that we can thoroughly reconsider our operations in Iraq and the security arrangements that we will need if we are to continue working there. This applies to Baghdad, and there has been no change in the staff situation in the north of Iraq,” she added.
According to Ms. Okabe, the international staff had not yet left Baghdad. As of today, she said, there were close to 60 international staff in Iraq working with some 4,000 Iraqi nationals.
Ms. Okabe said, “I would also like to stress that this is a temporary relocation and is part of an ongoing process, of a constant review of the situation on the ground given the volatile conditions there. It does not represent a policy decision to disengage from Iraq.”
She added that “the UN has been asked to play a vital role [and] that role can only be played if we are on the ground. The Iraqi people also want us to be there and on the ground, and what we are trying to do is to help the Iraqis the best we can without risking life. It is not a static situation and that’s what we’re faced with.”
“It is not a withdrawal,” Ms. Okabe said. “It is a consultation process.”