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UN Concerned Lawlessness in Iraq Could Hamper Humanitarian Aid - 2003-05-16

The United Nations' emergency relief coordinator says the lack of law and order in Iraq is hampering efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to the country. Kenzo Oshima spoke at a Baghdad news conference Friday.

U.N. officials say the lawlessness in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein is raising the possibility of a humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kenzo Oshima, visited Baghdad Friday to meet the American administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, and other officials involved in post-war recovery.

Mr. Oshima told a news conference he stressed the need to end a crime wave that threatens U.N. relief operations.

"We are concerned about the security situation," he said. "Without adequate security, the delivery of humanitarian assistance will be hampered. So we are really concerned with security and we are very strongly interested in the restoration of law and order."

Mr. Oshima emphasized that there is not an emergency yet, but the situation could turn bad soon if the crime problem persists. "I think there is no immediate humanitarian crisis or humanitarian disaster," said Mr. Oshima. "However, I think there are perhaps conditions still visible that could turn the situation into a serious crisis, particularly if the law and order situation does not improve."

Many U.N. facilities were ransacked in the chaos that accompanied Saddam Hussein's ouster by U.S.-led coalition forces. And U.N. officials say food warehouses still need more protection ahead of a planned resumption in the national distribution of food rations next month.

On Wednesday, the U.S. military commander in Iraq said he would double the number of military police in Baghdad in an effort to restore order. But the city will still have only about 20 percent of the number of police officers it had before the fall of Saddam Hussein.