Iraq

U.S. has $154 million in aid ready for Iraqi people

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The United States has been doing a lot of planning on humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people "who have been suffering all too long from the neglect of their own government," State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said March 19 during his daily press briefing in Washington.

"What we've done is we have assembled and trained what is for us the largest-ever humanitarian rapid response team," he said. "We have a team composed of 60 experts who are going to be working on areas such as health, food, water and shelter. We have been prepositioning stockpiles of emergency supplies and commodities. That includes food, it includes shelter materials, it includes medicines, water and sanitation, things like that."

Boucher said the assistance is worth a total of $154 million.

He added that the United States is coordinating its efforts with the United Nations and international humanitarian organizations, including U.S. nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and that a fact sheet with detailed figures would be distributed when ready.

Asked about the United Nations' Oil-for-Food Program, Boucher explained that the program involves using revenue from Iraqi oil, which is being kept in an escrow account, to be spent for the needs of the Iraqi people. "And that's the way it's supposed to have worked for many years," he said. "Unfortunately, in the areas controlled by the Iraqi regime, they've repeatedly failed to allocate that money in sufficient amounts to take care of the Iraqi people."

Boucher said the United States has been talking with other members of the U.N. Security Council "to present soon" a draft resolution that would ensure the continuity of the program.

Asked about press reports that Bahrain and Saudi Arabia had offered asylum to Saddam Hussein, Boucher said the United States would be willing to work with such proposals, were they to be accepted. "But at this point we've seen no such acceptance. We've seen continued refusal by the government of Iraq to take any option that provides for a peaceful settlement, and all we can do at this point is say let's hope they take the offer."

The State Department spokesman also discussed aspects of the "coalition of the willing" that was announced the previous day, reiterating that there are 45 countries "that are standing with us on the need to disarm Iraq. That's the way we define this, according to people who take actions in that regard."

Following are excerpts of the briefing:

(begin excerpt)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2003 BRIEFER:

Richard Boucher, Spokesman

[...]

Could you give us sort of an overview of what the U.S. is doing to plan for post-Iraq in terms of feeding its people?

MR. BOUCHER: I think there are a number of things that we are doing to get ready for this and I don't think I have all the details with me today, but I will try to make sure I do this.

We have been doing a lot of planning, a lot of work on humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people who have been suffering all too long from the neglect of their own government.

What we have done is we have assembled and trained what is, for us, the largest ever humanitarian rapid-response team and we have a team composed of 60 experts who are going to be working on areas such as health, food, water and shelter. We have been pre-positioning stockpiles of emergency supplies and commodities. That includes food, it includes shelter materials, it includes medicines, water and sanitation and things like that.

We have been coordinating with the United Nations and international humanitarian organizations including U.S. nongovernmental organizations and we have been funding the efforts of international organizations and nongovernmental organizations to get prepared for whatever might happen.

I can give you some rundown of the money involved, but I can't give you a number on the food and where it is and that sort of thing. We have positioned $154 million worth of relief food distribution, reconstruction and transition initiatives - put forward that money - have that money available. There's been $35 million for extensive contingency planning with the World Food Program.

QUESTION: In addition to that?

MR. BOUCHER: In addition to that. And in addition to that, we have spent $15.6 million pre-positioning supplies by international organizations, and there is more money in that pipeline.

QUESTION: Is the one that's committed to NGOs, you said, that's among the money that NGOs can apply for?

MR. BOUCHER: The 154 is for a variety of initiatives to get ready. So we put the money - we - how do you say - at this point, we've got the money to do, to fund the projects, the initiatives that will be taken in the event of need.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. BOUCHER: $35 million has been spent on World Food Program planning. In addition, now, the $17.3 million has been spent to pre-position commodities. No, hang on. Let me go back. $154 [million] available for initiatives, $35 [million] of that for the World Food Program, yes, sorry, $15.6 [million] for pre-positioning, okay? Now of these amounts - now I'm starting to give you a breakdown, a further breakdown.

$17.3 million has been spent to pre-position commodities by the U.S. Agency for International Development. And then there's also $2 million of that that went to UNICEF, $5 million to the World Food Program, $1 million to the UN's Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs.

[...]

QUESTION: That's U.S. money?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. That is all U.S. money there.

QUESTION: What about reports that the U.S. and the UK are working on a plan so that you actually could use some of the money from oil - from Iraqi oil in an escrow account, I guess, is how it would be for humanitarian relief?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you know, the Oil for Food Program exists already and that involves using revenue from Iraqi oil in an escrow account to be spent for the needs of the Iraqi people. And that is the way it was supposed to have worked for many years. Unfortunately, in the areas controlled by the Iraqi regime, they have repeatedly failed to allocate that money in sufficient amounts to take care of the Iraqi people. But we have been talking with other members of the Council to consider how to go forward with that. We have been working with others and we are prepared to present soon a draft humanitarian resolution that would ensure the continuity of the Oil for Food Program. We want to make sure it is kept running to meet the humanitarian needs of Iraq.

We have been consulting with the United Nations and other Council members on adjustments to the current Oil for Food Program, so we can ensure continued delivery of key humanitarian supplies. And we hope that progress on that resolution will be swift, in order to minimize any interruption to the program.

Security Council discussed the issue yesterday. We look forward to hearing from the UN Secretary General on how to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. As I said, we look for prompt action to modify the Oil for Food Program.

QUESTION: - money that used to go to the Iraqi government would now be able to be used by the allies to divert to humanitarian -

MR. BOUCHER: The exact structure of how to do that needs to be adjusted and defined through the United Nations. As you know, the Azores statement that the leaders issued proposed giving the Secretary General the authority on an interim basis to ensure the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people are met. And so in yesterday's discussion with the Council, they said they looked forward to hearing - the Council said - we look forward to hearing from the Secretary General about how that could be done.

[...]

QUESTION: Given that this is not a UN operation, that the resolution - the second resolution to 1441 did not pass, and there is considerable bulkiness at the UN over this potential operation, are you meeting opposition at the UN to try to get this other resolution through? Are they saying, well, you all are doing this and so it's entirely your responsibility to -

MR. BOUCHER: Not that I have heard of. And I have seen some statements by other members of the Council that would indicate that they are interested in providing for ongoing humanitarian relief efforts. And, as you know, we have been working for some time with UN agencies, with international organizations. We have been in touch with the United Nations, been in touch with the European Union, been in touch with nongovernmental organizations to try and ensure an uninterrupted flow of humanitarian goods to the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: Richard, under this draft resolution which you are proposing, what does it say about who would actually be the party selling the oil, writing contracts and that type of thing?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't tell you any more at this point because it is still under consultation, still being discussed.

[...]

QUESTION: Just for clarification, would this wholly take this out of Iraqi Government hands? It seems implicit in what you're saying.

MR. BOUCHER: It would provide an interim arrangement to continue this program until there is a renewed Iraqi authority.

QUESTION: Like as soon as possible?

MR. BOUCHER: We think the resolution should be passed as soon as possible that provides for arrangements that could apply when necessary.

[...]

QUESTION: Can you say whether the State Department believes that legally you are liable or responsible to take care of the Iraqi people after this conflict since it is one of our choosing?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, the question has an answer that we have given many times; the Secretary has given it. If there should be conflict, according to the rules of conflict, the occupying power has the responsibility for civilians in the areas that we might or coalition forces might go into. That is well recognized in the extensive planning to take care of the Iraqi people immediately upon any conflict. It is being done with that in mind.

But even more important than that, it is being done with the fact that the United States over many years has demonstrated concern for the Iraqi people. We were the ones that originally proposed the oil-for-food program. We are the ones that have consistently tried to make it work. We have been the ones who have made sure it does work in, for example, the North where nutrition levels and health levels are considerably higher than in the areas controlled by Saddam Hussein.

So we have a continuing humanitarian interest in the welfare of the people of Iraq and the President restated that in his speech Monday night I think very, very clearly.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Crown Prince Abdallah on offering Saddam Hussein an asylum in his country in Saudi Arabia?

QUESTION: What about Bahrain?

MR. BOUCHER: Both. Of course - there we go.

No, there have been a couple statements to this effect and we have seen the press reports of the Saudi offer. We have seen the press reports of the Bahraini Government's offer. I just repeat what President Bush said on Monday. In recent days, some governments in the Middle East have delivered messages urging the dictator to leave Iraq so that disarmament can proceed peacefully. Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours - that's from Monday night. Their refusal to do so would result in military conflict.

So this is an option that we have supported in past, we have said we would be willing to work with such proposals were they to be accepted. But at this point, we see no such acceptance. We have seen continued refusal by the Government of Iraq to take any option that provides for a peaceful settlement. And all we can do at this point is say let's hope they take the offer.

QUESTION: If he - I mean - accepted the last-minute exile in Saudi Arabia, will he be persecuted for his crimes? Or -

MR. BOUCHER: If there was a proposal to that effect, I suppose that is a question we would be exploring. But at this point, I haven't seen any serious proposals or discussion from the Iraqi side.

QUESTION: Richard, do you think that he would say that he would be accepting it until he receives some public assurances -

MR. BOUCHER: As I said, he has said nothing whatsoever to indicate he is even interested, so it is really a moot point at this point. Let's hope he accepts, let's hope he indicates interest, let's hope he says he - you know, they realize what is good for Iraq and accept the offers and explore how that might work. But at this point, they don't appear to be doing that.

QUESTION: On assistance, you've given us American figures, you've spoken of an American and British initiative on the oil program. Can you give us any idea, if even briefly, whether other countries are being approached to contribute to the humanitarian cause? And, if so, have you heard any - you know, any echoes of the U.S.'s charitable ways?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I am going to have any numbers for other countries; I am not sure if they have. But I think the fact is, as we have stated many times, we have been in discussion with a variety of UN agencies about the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people in a post-conflict scenario. We have been in touch with the European Union, which has a considerable assistance budget. We have been in touch with other governments, including European governments. Japan, I think, has indicated already that they would want to be involved in helping the Iraqi people after a conflict. So there is considerable interest and support in the international community to do that.

What the total figures might be, what might in the end be required on a specific basis, I am not sure anyone can estimate at this point. But we have been certainly doing a lot of planning, especially for the immediate need to feed people who have been relying on the Oil for Food Program.

[...]

QUESTION: So could you just clarify what makes Turkey part of the coalition of the willing, whereas Germany is not part of the coalition of the willing, since they seem to be providing the same sort of assistance in the military end?

MR. BOUCHER: Who is to say they are not?

QUESTION: Who is to say that Germany is not part of the coalition?

MR. BOUCHER: Did Germany say they are not?

QUESTION: I don't see them on your list. Are they part of -

MR. BOUCHER: We have said there are 45 or more countries. I think we named 30 yesterday. There are probably another three that - two or three that want to be named today. There is Bulgaria, there is - I guess I'm not sure if I named Bulgaria yesterday. There is Singapore, there is Portugal, all of whom said in the last 24 hours it is okay to name them. So some countries are named, some are not. I am not going to go into who the unnamed might be. We certainly appreciate support from named or unnamed countries, or countries not on the list, anybody who we think is an ally or a friend or just an interested party who is prepared to cooperate and support in this effort. We think that is an important statement.

[...]

QUESTION: I know you keep telling us that you're against unilateral action, but let me put it this way, and it would be nice if you could give us an answer.

Has the United States made any arrangements with Turkey for a coordinated entrance of Turkish forces into northern Iraq?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not going to get into speaking for the Turkish Government or talking about future actions. I think I have made clear what our position is. We have been in close conversations with the Turkish Government. We have been working with Turkey to make sure that we keep tensions on its northern border, on Iraq's northern border, at the lowest possible levels, and we expect the Turkish Government, as well as the Iraqi parties, to be responsive to our concerns. For the moment, that is as far as I can go for you.

[...]

[H]ow many of the countries that you have put on your list yesterday, and the unnamed, or do you consider the unnamed 15, or if there are more now, whatever, to be part of the coalition?

I'm just trying out why there seems to be a discrepancy between some people saying that there's 30 members of the coalition and other people saying there's 45. How many do you think - how many do you believe -

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that there are 45 countries who, in one way or the other, are standing with us, cooperating in the effort to disarm Iraq, and who are ready to see that done, whether it is by allowing overflights or actually providing military forces or providing emergency units, such as nuclear, biological, and chemical units.

There may be others outside of this who are not counted, but as allies or friends providing certain facilities, even though they may not agree with the purpose. But I think there are 45 countries that are standing with us on the need to disarm Iraq. That is the way we have defined this, according to people who take actions in that regard.

QUESTION: Do you consider those 45 to be members of your coalition?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Yes. Okay. And then one other thing. With your adding Portugal and Singapore and Bulgaria today. Does this mean - were they - can you say, now that you're naming them, were they part of the 15 -

MR. BOUCHER: I am moving them from one column to another, I am not adding three to the total.

[...]

QUESTION: Does that mean that now there are only 12 in that unnamed category?

MR. BOUCHER: Approximately, yes.

[...]

QUESTION: Richard, with respect to tonight, 8:00 p.m., which is the 48 hours, are there any last-minute attempts, for instance, to fly a UN plane into Baghdad to request Saddam Hussein and his sons to be flown to Cyprus?

Number two, when does the Iraqi opposition kick in?

And thirdly, is the Ba'ath party then considered null and void at that hour?

MR. BOUCHER: One, I haven't heard of any such plans to ask the UN. Number two, the Iraqi opposition has been opposed to Saddam Hussein for a long time, and I think that will continue after 8:00 p.m. tonight as well. I don't know what you mean by "kick in." If you are asking me when military action starts, there is no way I would know that, nor am I going to tell you if I do. ...

I am not going to make a judgment of the existence or not of the Ba'ath party. I think that will depend on the outcome of the conflict and the actions of individuals in that party who may or may not further the crimes of the regime.

[...]

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that point about the oil money, I think you've said before or maybe others in the Administration have said it but just to make clear, there is no intention to use any Iraqi oil money to pay for the cost of a war, is there?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the Secretary has said that the Iraqi - this is a natural resource that belongs in hand to the Iraqi people that appropriately would be spent on the needs of the Iraqi people for relief, for welfare, for future development. It wouldn't be appropriate to take that for military purposes.

[...]

QUESTION: Can I follow up? Would you consider military expenses, not economic development or any kind of institutional development which didn't exist before Saddam, but the repairing of buildings and any type of damage to infrastructure that was done during the bombing? Who would be paying for that?

MR. BOUCHER: The Oil for Food Program is one to take care of the humanitarian and civilian needs of Iraqi civilians. That is what is has always been designed for. It has been a humanitarian program. It has been an education and welfare program. It has been an infrastructure program.

I don't know if it would be redefined in any manner in the new - in a new resolution that would provide for its continuation, but certainly the intent and purposes of the resolution would remain.

(end excerpt)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)