Iraq

Broad interest in "Humanitarian Meeting Iraq"

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Bern, February 13, 2003 - The "Humanitarian Meeting Iraq" which was organized by Switzerland at short notice has met with broad interest.All the international organizations which were invited have announced their participation. Of the countries invited only two had not responded by midday Thursday and the United States had declined the invitation. The meeting will be held in Geneva on February 15-16.
Twenty-one international organizations such as UN agencies, the ICRC, IFRC and the ICDO, were invited to the "Humanitarian Meeting Iraq". Thirty states were also invited, including neighboring countries of Iraq, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany as current presiding country of the Security Council, and Greece, which is president of the European Union. Invitations were also sent to the member countries of the Geneva Humanitarian Liaison Working Group. (The "List of Invitees" is onwww.deza.admin.ch.)

By Thursday at noon all the international organizations which had been invited had accepted, as had 27 states. Germany and Japan had still not named their delegations. The United States was the only refusal. To prevent the number of participants from becoming too large, the conference organizer, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC had to turn down requests from uninvited NGOs and countries to participate.

Many participating states, mainly because of the geographical distance, will be represented at the humanitarian meeting by delegates from their permanent missions in Geneva. The fact that the UN is also discussing humanitarian issues regarding the Iraq crisis in New York today (Thursday), can only enrich the Geneva meetingon practical and logistical questionsof humanitarian engagement.

The meeting in Geneva will be opened officially on Saturday at 3 p.m. by Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey.The conference chairman is the SDC Director-General Walter Fust.Toni Frisch, the Delegate for Humanitarian Aid and head of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit SHA, will lead the Swiss delegation.

SWISS AGENCY FOR DEVELOPMENT AND COOPERATION
Media and communications

To ensure an undisturbed working atmosphere, the meeting will be closed to the media. Photographers and television will be permitted to take visuals in the conference room shortly before the opening. At the close of the meeting on Sunday, a news conference is planned.

Further information from Joachim Ahrens, SDC Spokesman, Tel. 079-292 08 49; 079-622 87 54