- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

The United Nations said yesterday it is stockpiling food, tents and other relief supplies near Iraq for the millions of refugees it expects from a likely war.
"The principal risk that we're concerned about is that large numbers of people might be displaced within Iraq, across international frontiers and … stuck in limbo along frontiers that may not be easily crossed," U.N. Undersecretary-General Shashi Tharoor told reporters in Washington.
Mr. Tharoor said supplies were prepositioned by multiple agencies such as UNICEF and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in nearby nations and that the relief effort would be coordinated from Cyprus.
The United Nations recently appealed to donor nations for $120 million to fund the effort through March 15 and had received pledges of about $30 million.
Last week, the United States offered $12 million and Britain pledged a similar amount. The UNHCR said recently that other nations have agreed to provide nearly $1 million.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was to brief members of the Security Council in New York yesterday on relief efforts.
Mr. Tharoor told reporters at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington that the world body anticipates about 600,000 refugees and asylum seekers to flee Iraq and that the number of internal refugees also known as internally displaced people to double from the present 1 million.
With 16 million, or about 60 percent of Iraqis, already depending on rations from a U.N. administered oil-for-food program, Mr. Tharoor warned that a long war could trigger a "humanitarian catastrophe."
During a war, the United Nations plans to pull out of the country.
Mr. Tharoor said no one from the Bush administration has approached the United Nations about a role in governing a postwar Iraq.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told Congress this week that the U.S. military would take charge of Iraq following fighting before handing power to a prominent American or other international figure, who would rule for a fixed term before the government is turned over the Iraqis.
The United Nations has taken over civilian rule in places like East Timor and Kosovo, but as for Iraq, "We have not been asked by anyone to prepare for such a role," Mr. Tharoor said.
His remarks on U.N. relief efforts followed criticism from some nations and human rights groups that the world body had done too little to prepare for the humanitarian consequences of war.
"Donor governments and U.N. agencies have not openly prepared for the humanitarian emergency," the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report yesterday. "Without sharing details publicly and coordinating efforts, crisis response may be inadequate."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide