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Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 18:41 GMT 19:41 UK
Aid move fuels Iraq war rumours
Iraqis queue for food
Charities would provide food and health care
A US invitation to aid agencies to bid for humanitarian work in Iraq has sparked fresh speculation that Washington is planning an imminent strike against Baghdad.


It just seems odd

Joel Charny
Refugees International
American charities, whose activities in Iraq are currently strictly limited, have been asked by the US State Department to bid for millions of dollars in government funds to carry out relief work in the country.

The document says the primary objective of the programme would be to respond to urgent humanitarian needs of people in Iraq and Iraqi refugees.

The invitation appears amid a fresh drive by Washington to argue the case for deposing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who on Thursday was nominated by the country's top political body for another presidential term.

Questions linger

Aid agencies suspect that there is a connection between the tender and Washington's preparations for war.

"It just seems odd that one part of the government is willing to put $6.6 million into a territory controlled by our sworn enemy, while another part of the government has major plans to depose that enemy," said Joel Charny of Refugees International.

It is thought that some charities may prove wary of applying for grants over fears that they may be facilitating a US attack on Iraq.

But the offer is also seen as confusing, as several issues have not been made clear, according to Mr Charny.

There is no indication of when the projects might start, whether agencies would work with the current regime or the opposition and what kind of protection they would be afforded should a strike occur.

The US administration insists no concrete decisions have been taken over Iraq, but has made no secret of its wish to eliminate Saddam Hussein.

However there is opposition to a strike against Baghdad both within the US and abroad, with increasing numbers of people feeling there is insufficient justification for military action and fears are mounting over the possible consequences of such action.


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