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US Food Aid to Iraq Being Held Up Due to Fighting - 2003-03-25

The Pentagon says the drive by allied forces towards Baghdad is going well. But efforts to bring in relief supplies for Iraqi civilians are still being held up.

Senior defense officials have stressed repeatedly the coalition military effort under way in Iraq is not directed at civilians, but the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. They have not only promised to avoid civilian targets in the fighting but also pledged a massive relief effort for the Iraqi people.

But Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke says that effort is being held up because conditions inside Iraq still remain dangerous.

"We're poised at the borders to bring in large quantities of humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, including millions of meals and medicine, when it's safe enough to do so," he said.

Ms. Clarke says troops in southern Iraq are handing out food and water to meet immediate, emergency civilian needs. But she says large-scale shipments will have to wait until mine-clearing operations are concluded and all areas are cleared of hostile ground forces.