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Aid Shipments Begin to Trickle into Iraq Amid Security Concerns - 2003-03-31

The first U.N. aid shipment was delivered in Northern Iraq during the weekend, but relief officials say other relief convoys bound for Iraq have been delayed by bureaucracy and security issues.

Concern over living conditions inside Iraq increases with reports of power cuts and water shortages, especially in central and southern Iraq.

Shipments from the United Nations, Red Cross and other aid groups are starting to trickle into the country but often are delayed by bureaucratic red tape and security issues.

The U.N. children's fund, UNICEF, has contracted with a private company in Kuwait to truck in water to Safwan, Um Qasr and other communities near Basra. Spokesman Geoffrey Keele said so far only three water tankers made it to their destinations.

"Thirteen vehicles were commissioned to go into the country. In the end three managed to deliver water to Um Qasr. Of the others, some did not have the correct paperwork to go into Iraq and the drivers of two of the other trucks decided the right conditions of safety did not exist for them to carry on," he said.

There was some good news from the World Food Program, which managed to get three trucks with 77 metric tons of dried milk into northern Iraq during the weekend. It was the first U.N. shipment into northern Iraq since the war started.

"We are preparing to move the badly needed wheat flour hopefully later this week into the Kurdish provinces. We hope to move about 1,000 tons of wheat flour which has been stored in Turkey, into northern Iraq later this week. Unlike the southern and central provinces of Iraq, which received double rations, this did not happen with wheat flour in the Kurdish provinces," said spokesman Khalid Mansour. He said more shipments are on the way to Iraq.

Mr. Mansour said WFP has also contracted with a company in Kuwait to mill wheat purchased there for transfer into southern Iraq once it is safe to do so.