Aid workers cast doubt over new UN resolution on Iraq

[Iraq] UN HQ at the Canal Hotel (Baghdad) following the 19 August 2003 bomb.
Aid agencies have scaled back operations following the devastating bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad (UN)

Aid workers and analysts have had mixed reactions to last week's announcement of a new UN resolution. Humanitarian aid groups and some UN workers said that a new UN resolution was not the key to getting them back into Iraq to help rebuild the country.

"Just because they passed a resolution - it won’t keep one more person safe in Baghdad," an aid worker, who wished to remain unnamed, told IRIN in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

The worker had lost a colleague in the suicide truck-bomb blast on 19 August that killed 22 people at the UN headquarters in Baghdad. Since then, the UN and international NGOs have scaled back operations in Iraq due to security concerns, at the orders of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The UN Security Council last Thursday voted unanimously to support a US-backed resolution calling for more financial help and international troops to help US-led forces in Iraq. The resolution also called for Iraqi self-rule and for the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to announce by 15 December when it expected to complete a new constitution and hold elections.

The new resolution came ahead of a scheduled donors' conference in Madrid later this week. Japan has already informally pledged US $1.5 billion in reconstruction funds during a visit from US President George W. Bush. Spain, which supported the war, announced on Friday that it would give $300 million. EU leaders also pledged support of some 200 million Euros for Iraq, but neither they nor any country other than those mentioned above have announced a specific sum.

"If the purpose of the resolution is to give real international legitimacy to the US role in Iraq - to provide boots and dollars - I don’t think it’s going to succeed," said Mouin Rabbani, a senior Middle East analyst at the International Crisis Group office (ICG). "I think the effect will be marginal at best."

The resolution also expands the UN's role in a future Iraqi election and confirms the temporary nature of the current US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, installed after Saddam Hussein’s regime fell in April. However, it does not set a timetable for Iraq to return to self-rule.

"This is really unfair, but unless this somehow changes the security in Iraq, it doesn't change our stance," Nicholas Hughes, a Save the Children-UK official, told IRIN in Amman. The humanitarian group recently closed its doors in Baghdad temporarily and moved its international staff to neighbouring Jordan.

Although France, Germany and Russia all went along reluctantly with Thursday’s vote, they all also expressed reservations about any new UN resolution on Iraq. In France’s case, the new resolution is seen as a way to keep things from spiralling out of control in the Middle East, according to French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin. Speaking on Friday, he said that he hoped the UN resolution would also bring about a swift transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis.

The ICG’s Rabbani took the French foreign minister’s comments one step further. "My impression is that the major powers that expressed doubts went along with the resolution despite their misgivings so as to avoid further confrontation with the US," Rabbani said. "I doubt it will change anything on the ground."

Another humanitarian worker who works closely with the UN said he had mixed feelings about the new resolution. He noted that he had been outside the country for the first suicide bomb attack, but was at the UN headquarters in September at the time of the second, which killed two Iraqi security guards at the entrance of the UN compound and wounded at least eight more.

"There’s a balance between us wanting to do our jobs and having the security to do them," the second worker said. "What does even having the security in place mean? I don’t know," he added.

All 151 UN member states have been invited to Madrid, but France, Germany and Russia have said they had no plans to supply money or troops at this stage. Spain said US $15 billion to $20 billion would be a realistic goal for the donors' conference to raise.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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