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ICRC Cuts Staff in Iraq - 2003-10-29

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is pulling some of its international staff out of Iraq following Monday's bombing of its building in Baghdad. But, the Red Cross says it will continue its humanitarian work in Iraq.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it was hard to make the decision to cut the number of foreign workers in Iraq. But following Monday's suicide bombing at its headquarters in Baghdad, it says there was no other choice.

ICRC chief of operations, Pierre Kraehenbuhl, says in view of the bombing, his organization must change the way it works. "For this reason, we are reducing the number of our international staff and implementing additional measures to increase security for our remaining staff," he said. "And, to make this clear and to avoid any misunderstanding, the ICRC is not withdrawing from Iraq."

Mr. Kraehenbuhl, says the Red Cross has not yet decided how many of its staff will remain in Iraq and how humanitarian operations will be carried out in the future. Currently, about 30 expatriates and 600 nationals are present in Iraq.

Mr. Kraehenbuhl, stresses that the ICRC remains committed to staying in Iraq and continue its humanitarian mission, but admits that, with reduced staff, its operations will be scaled down.

"Our current priorities, as you know, have been mainly on visits to prisoners of war and civilian internees," he explained. "We have had a range of activities in the field of water supplies and support of medical structures as well as supporting the Iraqi Red Crescent in the context. Now, obviously, we will be looking at the priorities. If you look at the needs in the country, you will find that we wish we could be doing more rather than less."

The Red Cross has been present in Iraq for 23 years, and, Mr. Kraehenbuhl says, it has no intention of leaving now.