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Iraqi crisis on agenda as Red Cross Red Crescent president visits Iran

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A possible humanitarian crisis over Iraq will be among issues discussed as the president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro begins a two-day visit to Iran today. Although his visit is largely to participate in celebrations marking the 80th anniversary of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, events in Iraq are overshadowing the trip.
The Iranian Red Crescent is currently in the process of mobilising resources from its disaster response stocks to assist more than 100,000 refugees should there be a fully-fledged conflict in Iraq. It forms a part of a potential Red Cross Red Crescent humanitarian response in the region.

Founded in 1923 as the Red Lion and Sun Society but changing its name in 1980 to the Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Society has earned an enviable reputation for the provision of immediate emergency assistance to victims of natural disasters.

With an annual average of more than nine per cent of its population killed or affected by natural and technological disasters and listed in the top 10 of the world's most disaster prone countries (*), the Iranian Red Crescent plays a vital role in the country. It has about 2.2 million members and volunteers working to provide assistance. But it is also known for its response to disasters across the world.

"These 80th anniversary celebrations are a very important opportunity to highlight our efforts and, in general, the valuable work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, especially in view of the many humanitarian challenges currently facing the world," said Dr. Ahmad Ali Noorbala, president of the Iranian Red Crescent Society.

President Suárez del Toro will also participate in the official opening of the Iranian Red Crescent Museum, which will commemorate the history of the Red Crescent Society. Before leaving for Tehran, the Federation president underlined the essential role of volunteers in the work of the Iranian Red Crescent and expressed his warmest appreciation for their efforts, dedication and commitment to the humanitarian mission of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. "I believe that teaching youth about our humanitarian principles and values and encouraging them to volunteer is key to creating a world of respect, cooperation, and lasting peace. It has never been so important," he said.

Suárez del Toro will also visit the joint Iranian Red Crescent/Federation regional Strategic Relief Centre which was inaugurated in Tehran last May. It will contribute to building regional capacity for disaster response by providing a logistics base and training in disaster management for Red Crescent and Red Cross volunteers and staff in the Middle East and Central Asia.

(* International Federation's World Disasters Report 2002)

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