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Red Cross Rejects Outside Pressure in Deciding Fate of Iraq Operation - 2003-10-28

The chief spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross says the agency will not give in to pressure from any country, including the United States. She says the ICRC is reviewing its humanitarian operations in Iraq following Monday's suicide bombing at its building in Baghdad.

The United States has been urging aid agencies not to pull out of Iraq. It says this would only give a victory to the terrorists.

The chief spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Antonella Notari, said her organization understands Washington's concerns and its reasons for wanting the ICRC and other humanitarian agencies to stay in Iraq. "What we have to say to that is we will take our own decision, based on our own thinking and on our own criteria. And we are not asking anyone, neither the coalition forces nor anyone else, to assist us in taking this decision or in any other measures that we would have to implement in order to stay in Baghdad, if we decided to stay there and to carry out our activities," she said.

The final decision, Ms. Notari said, will be made by the Red Cross.

The ICRC building was among the targets in a series of suicide bombings in Baghdad on Monday. Two Iraqi Red Cross workers were among the dead.

Ms. Notari said the attack against its headquarters has raised a lot of questions. She said her organization is analyzing the situation and will determine whether its expatriate aid workers will stay and continue to operate in the Iraqi capital and elsewhere in the country.

She said the safety of ICRC staff must be seen in the context of overall security in Iraq. "I would like to remind you that even yesterday, the victims, as far as I know, were exclusively Iraqi people. I think we need to note that what we are talking about is the overall security and stability of Iraq, trying to ensure that security, put the means in place that are best suited to the risks that exist today. We are not asking the coalition forces to take any particular measures for our protection," she said.

Monday's attack was the second time the International Committee of the Red Cross was targeted by unknown assailants. A previous assault on July 22 against a clearly marked ICRC vehicle, killed one aid worker. That prompted the Red Cross to cut back on its expatriate staff in the country.

At its peak, the agency maintained 130 foreign aid workers in Iraq. That number is down to 30.