Clare Short in US to discuss Iraq humanitarian planning

Clare Short, UK Secretary of State for International Development, is visiting New York and Washington to drive forward the humanitarian and reconstruction effort in Iraq.

Ms Short will underline the importance of a swift Security Council agreement on allowing the UN Secretary General to take over authority for the Oil For Food programme, on which more than 19 million Iraqis rely for food, medicine, water and sanitation, and fuel. She will also seek agreement on the terms of the new Security Council Resolution on a UN mandate for the reconstruction of Iraq, as agreed by the US, UK and Spanish Governments in their declaration at Azores last week.

The humanitarian situation in Iraq is already extremely fragile with 60% of the Iraqi people dependent on the Oil For Food Programme for meeting their basic needs. The UK Government is working for Security Council agreement to enable the UN Secretary General to take over authority for the Oil For Food Programme as soon as possible following the fall of the Iraqi regime, so as to minimise disruption of vital supplies to the Iraqi people.

The UK Department for International Development is working to support the UN humanitarian operations in Iraq and has so far committed =A320 million to support UN agencies' preparations for humanitarian needs. The UK Government stands ready to respond to an expected UN flash appeal for further funding to meet humanitarian needs.

Ms Short said "we must ensure the needs of the people of Iraq remain at the centre of our efforts. Military targeting will be as careful as possible and the UK is committed to play a full part in supporting the humanitarian effort. We are also determined to deliver on our commitment to a UN mandate for the reconstruction of Iraq, as without it Iraq's longer term development prospects will be bleak."

Without a UN mandate for the reconstruction of Iraq, coalition countries would have the status of occupying powers under international law following military action. This would severely hinder Iraq's longer term development prospects, as steps to reform Iraqi government institutions would be illegal under international law. Ms Short hopes that agreement on a UN mandate for the reconstruction of Iraq will enable the World Bank, IMF, the UN and development agencies to play a full part in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Ms Short is meeting with Kofi Annan, Head of UN agencies that will lead the humanitarian and reconstruction efforts, James Wolfensohn of the World Bank and Horst Kohler of the IMF. She is also meeting Andrew Natsios of USAID, Eliot Abrams of the US National Security Council and Richard Armitage of the US State Department.