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Red Crescent Official: Dealing with US Troops is Main Difficulty in Iraq


A senior official of the Iraqi Red Crescent says the humanitarian situation in Iraq is rapidly deteriorating because of the sectarian violence. He says one of the main problems the organization encounters is the treatment of its volunteers by the multinational forces. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Red Cross headquarters in Geneva.

The vice president of the Iraqi Red Crescent, Jamal Al-Karbouli, says the U.S.-led multinational forces pose a greater threat to the organization's humanitarian operations in Iraq than do the insurgents.

"They give us hard time. They (attack) some offices and they detain some volunteers and last … just before seven days in Fallujah, we have our office attacked by American forces. They have detained volunteers and staff for more than two hours and they burned the car and even the building belonging to us, to the Red Crescent."

Al-Karbouli says the building was flying the Red Crescent flag to show that it was housing a neutral organization. The organization uses the Muslim red crescent symbol instead of the Christian red cross.

He says Red Crescent offices in Baghdad, Anbar and Najaf provinces have been repeatedly targeted by U.S.-led multi-national forces searching for insurgents.

A Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Vician (Vih-she-an) says he is not familiar with the particular incidents cited in the report, but he can say that coalition forces search buildings throughout Iraq based on what he called "actionable intelligence." He says these searches are not attacks, and that individuals are detained "when they are perceived to be a security threat." He says the coalition continues "to seek ways to work with aid organizations and groups trying to improve the economic situation in Iraq."

The Iraqi Red Crescent, which was founded in 1932, is the only humanitarian organization currently working throughout war-torn Iraq. The organization has 1,000 staff members and 200,000 volunteers that fan out throughout the country providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people.

Al-Karbouli says the agency currently is caring for 100,000 internally displaced families. He says this number is growing because of sectarian violence. "Just now we are opening three, just today, we are opening three camps…two in Sunnis area and one in Shiites area…Then we have a lot of refugees, Iraqi refugees outside Iraq. And, the number of refugees is more than 700,000."

Al-Karbouli is in Geneva to discuss a funding appeal for the coming year. He estimates the Red Crescent will need about $10 million to carry out its work.

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