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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 March, 2003, 00:59 GMT
US 'must provide aid to Iraq'

By Susannah Price
BBC correspondent at the United Nations

British marine hands out food aid to Iraqi children in Umm Qasr
The role of administrating a post-war Iraq is proving divisive

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has said the United States and its allies will have to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraq until security conditions improve there.

His statement followed a meeting at the UN headquarters in New York with US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on assistance for Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Security Council is due to hold an open meeting on Wednesday at the request of the Arab group and the Non-Aligned Movement.

The Security Council has now shifted its focus to ways of helping Iraqi civilians, but this is also proving divisive.

UN role debate

Ms Rice held more than an hour of talks with Mr Annan about the humanitarian situation.

A statement by the secretary general afterwards warned that the UN could only give limited help until their staff was able to return to Iraq, and until then, humanitarian aid would have to be provided by the US and its coalition partners.

One of the most pressing issues is the future of the oil-for-food programme, previously partly administered by the Iraqi Government, which fed much of the population.

The Security Council has failed to agree on the scope of a draft resolution needed to hand control of the programme to the secretary general.

There is also likely to be disagreement among Security Council members about the role of the UN in administrating a post-war Iraq.

These issues are now all likely to be debated on Wednesday's open meeting of the Security Council at which all UN member states can speak.

The BBC's Jo Coburn reports from Downing Street
"They still need to secure the areas needed to get supplies in"

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