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No Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq, says Red Cross President - 2003-05-07

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, just back in Geneva after a two-day visit to Baghdad, says there is not a humanitarian crisis in Iraq, but it is important to continue to improve the security situation there.

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, told reporters that during his stay in Baghdad he met with top British and American officials and reminded them they are responsible for law and order in Iraq.

Mr. Kellenberger says, in addition to ensuring a secure environment for the people of Iraq, the U.S.-led administration must protect essential infrastructures, such as hospitals, water supply, and sewage systems. "There is not a dramatic or serious humanitarian crisis in Iraq," he said. "But, I think in order to prevent that such a crisis [from happening], it is extremely important that there are further improvements in the security environment and it is very important that people, motivated, skilled people can go back to do their job. "

Mr. Kellenberger says he also renewed his appeal to coalition leaders that Red Cross delegates be allowed to visit all prisoners of war and civilian internees being held in Iraq. He says all are covered by international humanitarian law. "The application of the third and the fourth Geneva Conventions and our insistence that we visit them, that does not at all mean that there cannot be afterwards a prosecution of these people who are being arrested," said Jakob Kellenberger. "So, it does not protect them against prosecution."

Since the war in Iraq ended, the Red Cross has had access to more than 7,000 Iraqi POW's and civilian internees. But Mr. Kellenberger says among the prisoners Red Cross delegates have not been allowed to see are former Iraqi leaders on a most-wanted list drawn up by U.S. officials in Iraq. Nearly 20 of the 55 people on the list are now in custody.