Kuwait City (dpa) - As Kuwait opened an international Humanitarian Operations Centre (HOC) on Monday to facilitate relief operations in the event of war against Iraq, some relief organisations were critical of attempts to integrate them into battle plans for a U.S.-led attack.
"Humanitarian aid should not be considered as a weapon in the service of military goals. It is not a guarantee of a repair service after the war,'' said a declaration by six French humanitarian organisations.
The statement said the agencies want unhindered access to war victims, not just intervention in areas declared "pacified'' in the wake of U.S. and British troops.
Relief agencies won't allow themselves to be used to facilitate the military goals of either side or be included in military planning, says Elias Bierdel of the German organization Cap Anamur. Instead they will work independently to provide aid wherever it is needed most, he said.
Aid agencies have estimated that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis could be expected to flood borders into Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria in the event of war.
Kuwait's government has maintained that it will not allow Iraqi refugees or displaced persons on its territory in case a war pushes masses to its border. Instead Kuwait intends to provide aid in the form of food, shelter, and medical supplies to displaced Iraqis within the 15-kilometre demilitarized border zone it shares with Iraq.
"The Kuwaiti government has taken the lead to facilitate the regional humanitarian effort and is committed to reducing the impact of any combat operation on the people of Iraq,'' HOC chairman, retired Army Lieutenant General Ali al-Mo'man, told reporters Monday.
U.S. government agencies have stationed a 60 strong Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) in the region to help coordinate relief attempts and to reduce the consequences of an attack on the civilian population of Iraq.
"The DART team is the projection of American humanitarian power into the field in a major emergency'', said U.S. Agency for International Development administrator Andrew Natios.
Some aid workers will be "embedded'' in military units with the military to decide when an area is safe enough to bring in more.
Bernd McConnell, the director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, said: "We will rely on the military for protection and for access. They will rely on us, conversely, for the actual humanitarian work that we can do, which I think they will admit they cannot.''
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Received by NewsEdge Insight: 03/10/2003 08:54:10
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