UNITED NATIONS April 6 —
The United Nations has issued guidelines to keep humanitarian aid
workers as far away as possible from American soldiers, a move that
could pacify relief agencies angered by the Bush administration's
decision to have the military supervise the operations.
As American forces began distributing water in the southern Iraqi
port of Umm Qasr, U.S. aid experts warned that military control
would jeopardize donations, put humanitarian workers in danger and
inject political motives into the delivery of food and medicine.
The guidelines, issued last month and circulated last week,
stressed the "operational independence" of U.N. humanitarian action
in Iraq, and said aid workers should only contact the military about
issues like security, relief convoys and the movements of large
amounts of people.
U.N. relief workers should only use soldiers or military vehicles
to help deliver aid in "exceptional" circumstances and should avoid
publicly socializing with the military, the guidelines say.
"Our intention is to try to run a totally civilian aid operation
and that's standard procedure," U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said
Friday. "It's always as a last resort that we rely on the
InterAction, a coalition of more than 160 U.S.-based relief
organizations, said it can't understand why President Bush changed a
World War II-era policy that put relief operations in the hands of
civilian government agencies like the State Department or the U.S.
Agency for International Development.
The decision "complicates our ability to help the Iraqi people
and multiplies the dangers faced by relief workers in the field,"
InterAction chief executive Mary McClymont said.
Peter Bell, president and chief executive officer of Care USA,
one of the largest international humanitarian groups, said
"independence and impartiality" are essential to relief efforts.
Bell said he was concerned military forces could use the aid
operations politically to reward certain groups over others. Putting
the military in charge would also jeopardize support from
international donors who oppose the war, said InterAction spokesman
Sid Balman Jr.
The U.N. and American relief groups started lobbying the
administration in December to put civilians with expertise in charge
of the Iraq humanitarian effort.
But Bush authorized the creation of an Office of Reconstruction
and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq under a team of recently
After lobbying Congress, relief groups won a provision in
separate war bills passed Thursday that say relief and
reconstruction funds must be channeled through the traditional
civilian government departments, Bell and Balman said.
A senior U.S. official said the government assumes the U.N. and
relief groups will lead aid efforts, with the military stepping in
in an emergency if workers can't get to a particular area.
|An Afghan boy, center, reacts as
he carries a box from a U.S. Army truck, background, in
village Qalai Nasro, 4 kilometers (2.5 miles), southwest of
the Coalition Joint Task Force base in Bagram, Afghanistan,
Saturday, April 5, 2003. U.S. army personnel distributed
humanitarian aid to the village, besides distributing toys for
children. Placed strategically on the frontline during the
conflict between Northern Alliance and Taliban, the key
Taliban stronghold village suffered heavy bombardment from
U.S.attacks in November, 2001. (AP Photo/Gurinder
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