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Aid Agencies Reduce Staff in Iraq Following Suicide Bombings - 2003-10-30

Many international aid workers are packing their bags to leave Iraq, following the bombing Monday of the Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad. Foreign staff members at the Red Cross in Baghdad were making plans to leave the Iraqi capital, following Monday's suicide bombing at a Red Cross building.

Red Cross headquarters in Geneva announced Wednesday the foreign staff in Baghdad would be reduced for security reasons.

An internal meeting of Red Cross officials is to take place in the next few days at an undisclosed location outside of Iraq to determine which staff members will stay and which ones will go. According to the spokesman for the Red Cross in Baghdad, Nada Doumani, security issues will also be discussed during the meeting.

"We will have to, of course, increase our security measures keeping in mind we never asked for armed protection," she said. "Keeping in mind, also, that we don't want to be separated from the people with high concrete walls because that's not the aim of being a humanitarian organization. And, then we will have to work out increased security measures, not only for the foreigners working here but also the Iraqis."

She says many Iraqi health workers have made it clear they do not want Red Cross employees to go. And, she says there has been an outpouring of support from throughout the community.

"We have had some directors of hospitals coming to and telling us do not go because there are plenty of emergency materials that they are not getting right now from the authorities in charge," said Ms. Doumani. "On the other hand, we have also had a few contractors who came the day before yesterday and offered to rehabilitate our offices for free just as a sign of solidarity. And, of course, all our colleagues, our Iraqi colleagues, we have told them these are mourning days, just go home, stay at home, nothing to do, and they are coming into the office."

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies released a statement saying that, while it will continue to maintain its presence in Iraq, it too will temporarily relocate most of its foreign employees in Iraq to Amman, Jordan.

The federation, which works separately for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said it will be re-evaluating the presence of its foreign staff members in Iraq.