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March 24, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Annan Warns of Basra Humanitarian Crisis
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Warns of Humanitarian Crisis in Iraqi City of Basra

The Associated Press


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UNITED NATIONS March 24

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Monday of a humanitarian crisis in the Iraqi city of Basra, where coalition forces were involved in fierce fighting.

British military officials said troops were engaged in artillery exchanges with Iraqi troops outside Iraq's second-largest city and were unable to move through it because of pockets of resistance.

Asked at the United Nations whether coalition forces were looking after the needs of the Iraqi people, Annan said he was told by the International Committee of the Red Cross that "the people in Basra may be facing a humanitarian disaster."

Annan said "urgent measures" needed to be taken to restore the city's electricity and water supply.

The Red Cross said in Geneva on Monday that the water supply situation is "close to what we call a humanitarian crisis."

ICRC staff and city authorities have been working to get clean water to Basra residents since the supply was cut Friday, ICRC spokesman Florian Staehelin said, adding that pipelines were running at 40 percent capacity.

The ICRC is one of the few foreign aid organizations left in Iraq, where it has dozens of local and expatriate workers.

Annan made clear the United States and its allies "are responsible for the safety and welfare" of the Iraqi people. But the United Nations was working to resume its humanitarian role there as soon as possible, he said.

Annan also urged all sides in the conflict to act in accordance with international laws governing war.

"Prisoners of war have to be treated humanely. Both sides have a responsibility to ensure that this is done," he said.

The secretary-general also said U.N. weapons inspectors "still have the responsibility for the disarmament of Iraq" and he expected them to return to the region.

The United States, which has its own disarmament teams ready to search for any weapons of mass destruction, has not said whether it would allow U.N. inspectors to participate in the process.


photo credit and caption:
Secretary-General Kofi Annan speaks to reporters about the war in Iraq as he arrives at the United Nations Monday, March, 24, 2003. Annan said the U.N. will do whatever it can to help the Iraqi population and the U.N. wants to resume the oil-for-food program as soon as possible.(AP Photo/David Karp)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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