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March 31, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
U.N. Water, Food Trickle Into Iraq
U.N. Water, Food Trickle Into Iraq; Aid Groups, Military Still Wary of Each Other

The Associated Press


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AMMAN, Jordan March 31

The first wartime U.N. humanitarian aid, a few truckloads of food and water, trickled across Iraq's borders from Turkey and Kuwait, U.N. agencies reported Monday. But officials said aid organizations and the U.S. military remain wary of working together on relief operations for Iraq.

Three trucks carrying 84.7 tons of dried milk crossed from Turkey and were unloaded in the northern Iraqi city of Dohuk on Saturday, the U.N. World Food Program said in a delayed report.

Next, "we're preparing to move badly needed wheat flour later this week into the north," said Khaled Mansour, regional spokesman for the U.N. agency in Amman.

He said people in three autonomous Kurdish provinces of the north are believed to need food more urgently than people in the central government-controlled remainder of Iraq because they received only a month's rations before the 12-day-old war began, while Iraqis elsewhere got two months' rations.

Under U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq, the World Food Program itself ran a food-rationing program in the north, while the Baghdad government operated it for the rest of the country.

In far southern Iraq on Monday, the first three vehicles carrying U.N. water commissioned by the U.N. Children's Fund managed to make deliveries from Kuwait to the captured city of Umm Qasr, UNICEF spokesman Geoff Keele reported.

But 10 other water vehicles did not cross from Kuwait, either because they had incorrect Kuwaiti paperwork or their privately contracted drivers decided it wasn't safe to travel into war-torn southern Iraq, Keele said.

Keele also said two UNICEF trucks carrying medical and other goods have been waiting at the northern border for Turkish permission to cross into Iraq. Mansour said Saturday's dried-milk delivery also had been held up for some days, pending Turkish permission.

The greatest obstacle, however, remained the danger of traveling war-torn Iraq's roads.

Few private aid convoys have ventured into Iraq, but on Monday a two-truck shipment from private Greek donors carrying 33 tons of medicine, food, milk and blankets headed for Baghdad from Amman, the Jordanian capital.

Convoy chief Dr. Demetrius Mognie, an Athens physiologist, said by mobile phone from the road that he hopes to remain in the Iraqi capital as the casualty toll mounts. "My specialty is an important one, and they may need my help there," said Mognie, a member of the aid group Doctors of the World.

A Jordanian government truck convoy and a private Algerian convoy crossed into Iraq on Sunday carrying 130 tons of medical supplies.

Yet another relief arm the U.S. and British military also continued deliveries on Monday as they sought to "win hearts and minds" for their invasion force. British troops delivered water from a tanker to the people of Zubayr, south of besieged Basra.

Although U.N. aid agencies are in contact with the military commands in Kuwait, no major progress has been reported toward a U.N. takeover of relief operations.

"The international people don't want to be associated with the American invasion, and the military people want to be seen as the ones helping the Iraqis," one well-placed U.N. official said privately, reflecting what others also have reported.

The professional aid community has openly disparaged the military's "back-of-the-truck" aid distribution in southern Iraq, which ended in televised scenes of chaos and fighting over water and food.

"Lessons have been learned," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said at Monday's daily U.S. Central Command briefing in Qatar. "We certainly know how to distribute aid. It's going very well right now."


photo credit and caption:
A small child, sitting on his father's shoulders, fights for a box of food as people rush to grab food packages handed out by members of the British Tactical Supply Wing from the back of a truck, in the southern Iraqi town of Safwan, Monday March 31, 2003. (AP Photo/Russell Boyce, Pool)

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

 
 
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