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US Increases Donations to Red Cross - 2003-03-17


The United States has announced an increase in its contributions to the International Committee of the Red Cross, but U.S. officials deny the funding is intended specifically to alleviate the effects of war in Iraq.

The latest U.S. donation of nine million dollars to the International Committee of the Red Cross raises its contributions to the humanitarian agency to more than $29 million over the past five months.

A Red Cross spokeswoman, Nada Doumani, says the agency has not yet asked for funds specifically for Iraq, despite the preparations it is making in case of war there.

"The U.S. funding is $29 million so far for the regular appeal, it has nothing to do with the exceptional appeal that we will launch for Iraq in case conflict starts," she said. "And we will only launch it in case war starts, not before that."

Ms. Doumani did not state how much money the Red Cross would seek for its humanitarian efforts should war break out in Iraq. However, she did say that the agency's director general, Angelo Gnaedinger, met Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri in Baghdad last week to discuss preparations for a possible armed conflict there.

"We have stepped up, reinforced our logistics bases in the neighboring countries in terms of human resources," said Mr. Sabri. "But also we have pre-positioned some stocks of food, non-food, medical in neighboring countries but also Iraq. The idea is to be able to respond to the most urgent needs that might concern war-wounded but also to be able to provide water, drinkable water for the population, but also for hospitals, and assist internally displaced people."

Ms. Doumani said the Red Cross would also assist prisoners of war. She says the agency has enough food to aid 150,000 Iraqis in the first week of war.

The Red Cross has maintained a permanent presence in Iraq since 1980. Its work includes projects to help repair Iraq's water and sanitation systems, as well as its hospitals and health centers.

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