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UN staff arrive in Amman

United Nations staff from Baghdad have been relocating to the Jordanian capital Amman following Tuesday's deadly bomb attack on its head office. UN Resident Coordinator in Jordan, Christine McNab, told IRIN on Friday that 129 staff from the UN Baghdad office have already arrived in Jordan, and that there are more to come.

But McNab added that most were not actually relocating to Jordan. "The UN is not piling up its staff in Amman. They are in transit through Amman. They will go back either to headquarters, or their home leave stations." She was speaking from Marka Airport, east of the capital, where she was waiting to receive medical evacuees from Baghdad.

A statement issued a day earlier by the UN in Jordan emphasised that the UN was committed to continue working inside Iraq to rebuild the war-shattered country despite the massive bomb attack against its headquarters which killed at least 20 people. "The UN will not abandon Iraq and the Iraqi people," the statement said.

More than 50 UN staff - lightly wounded and those traumatised - flew to Jordan from Baghdad on Thursday. A first group of 26 UN staff, including several who had been on missions for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in addition to members of non-government organisations and consultancy firms, had arrived on Wednesday, McNab said.

Regarding the role the Amman office might play in relation to the UN operation in Iraq, the UN Coordinator said: "We don't know yet, how this blast affects our operations in Iraq. The UN Amman office has always been important to the UN, but I don't think the UN Amman office will be controlling UN Iraq operations."

A Jordanian Airforce C130 is expected to bring to Amman 20 medical evacuees from the Baghdad blast, who are in serious conditions. The bombing claimed the life of the United Nations Special Envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, whose work in the country was commemorated at a special ceremony at Baghdad airport Friday as his body was flown out to Brazil for a state
funeral before burial in France.

Ram Babu Nepal, a UN budget officer, who was working for Vieira de Mello in Baghdad sat calmly in the UN Amman office waiting for his flight to take him to another duty station. He was lucky to survive the bomb attack. "We cannot understand why this happened. It is a tragic incident, we should have better security arrangements." he said. Marwan Ali, a political affairs officer in the office of Vieira de Mello, will go back to his family following the blast. He was still too traumatised by the experience to talk to IRIN.

All those survivors IRIN spoke to in Amman said they didn't know what had happened to many local staff who were also injured
or been killed in the blast. "I don't think we'll ever be sure how many people lost their lives on Tuesday," one man said.

Those who lived through the horrific attack that has been universally condemned are divided about going back to Iraq. "I am told that I should go back to Iraq. So, I will. I think many people who have been in Baghdad will return. But some may not go back, they have had enough," Nepal said.

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