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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 March, 2003, 19:33 GMT
UN to resume Iraq 'lifeline'
UN worker checks food aid for Iraq in Jordan warehouse
UN aid worker checks stacks of Iraqi food aid in Jordan
The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution clearing the way for the oil-for-food humanitarian aid programme in Iraq to resume.

The resolution transfers control of aid distribution directly to the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

President Bush immediately welcomed the move, which his spokesman said underlined the international will to give humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.

In another move, the UN on Friday launched its biggest-ever international aid appeal, seeking more than two-billion dollars to meet the immediate needs of the Iraqi people.

And a UN Children's Fund official said he feared a "catastrophe of unforseeable dimensions" if the international community did not intervene quickly with humanitarian aid.

Carel de Rooy of Unicef said nearly a quarter of Iraqi children under five were chronically malnourished and the situation had worsened since the food-for-oil programme was suspended just before the outbreak of war.

A statistical view of daily life in Iraq

Sponsors of the UN resolution resuming the programme included countries on both sides of the argument about whether the war is justified.

The British Government said it hoped this resolution will be the first step towards renewed co-operation between the big powers after the bitter arguments of the past few weeks.

Programme aims to give Iraqis 2,470 calories per day
570,000 tonnes of food a month
44,000 distribution agents
Five entry points
$1.27bn for current 6 months

But even though all sides agreed on meeting the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, negotiating the text was not easy.

Some Security Council members expressed concern that the draft resolution might appear to sanction the war, which they regard as illegal.

Carefully worded

For an initial period of 45 days, Mr Annan will decide which supplies should have priority and where they should go.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason says that in effect the UN is being authorised to take over temporarily the whole running of the programme - previously shared with the Iraqi Government.

The resolution did not say that, because it might imply that the government has ceased to exist.

The text referred to "necessary co-ordination" with the US and UK forces in Iraq.

It said nothing about replenishing the oil-for-food fund when it is exhausted, by resuming Iraqi oil exports.

And it emphasised that under the Geneva Convention it is the duty of the occupying power to supply the population with food and medicine.

WFP appeals

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the "UN door [would be] open again" if the council backed the programme.

The World Food Programme has also appealed for $1.3 bn to fund a massive food aid operation for Iraq.

It said its request was part of an overall UN appeal for $2.2bn for humanitarian help for Iraq in the coming six months.

With the majority of Iraqis set to exhaust their food reserves by May, the agency said it planned to support a food distribution system capable of meeting the needs of the entire population.

Ahmad Fowzi, UN representative in London
"This is an operation that has been going on for a very long time.... nearly seven or eight years"

Humanitarian alert in Iraq
28 Mar 03 |  Middle East

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