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WFP Prepares for Possible War in Iraq - 2003-01-30

United Nations relief agencies say they are positioning supplies in countries neighboring Iraq, so they will be ready in case of a war.

The World Food Program, like the rest of the United Nations, says it hopes the crisis over Iraq's weapons program will be resolved peacefully. But, food agency spokeswoman Christiane Bertiaume says it is making contingency plans to provide food aid, in case there is a war.

"What we are doing right now is to pre-position food in neighboring countries for around 900,000 people for a three-month period," she explained. "But this is really a working figure, because the food could be given to less people for a longer period of time, or to more people for a shorter period of time. It would all depend on the development of the situation."

Ms. Bertiaume says that the U.N. food agency would need permission to truck food across the territory of Jordan, Syria, Iran and Turkey.

She says it would cost about $8 million to implement the plan, but so far, there have been no contributions. She says the agency is using its emergency reserve funds to put the food in place.

In addition, Ms. Bertiaume says that about a half-million tons of food aid are already being shipped into Iraq every month under the U.N.-administered oil-for-food program. The United Nations estimates that more than half of Iraq's 22 million people could not survive without the deliveries of flour, rice, beans, milk and cooking oil. Ms. Bertiaume says the World Food Program will try to keep that food flowing as well, if there is a war.

"The World Food Program plan is to ensure that the most immediately vulnerable Iraqi people who are dependent on the food ration from the oil-for-food program will not go hungry in case of war," she said.

Ms. Bertiaume says that all U.N. agencies are coordinating their efforts, and working alongside the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, to be ready to respond to humanitarian needs if there is an attack on Iraq.