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UN to Continue Humanitarian Work in Iraq - 2003-08-20


Top U.N. officials say the organization will continue its humanitarian work in Iraq, despite Tuesday's bombing in Baghdad that killed at least 17 people. Analysts say such terrorist attacks are designed to spread chaos in Iraq and derail efforts by the United States and other nations to bring security and democracy to the country.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said U.N. workers in Iraq will persevere and will not be intimidated following the bombing of the organization's headquarters in Baghdad.

"There are many other United Nations officials who remain in Iraq and we will continue our work. We should not be distracted, nor deterred by this senseless and brutal act of violence," he said. "Those who killed our colleagues have committed a crime. A crime not only against the United Nations, but against Iraq itself."

Analysts say the bombing illustrates the difficulties the U.S. military is having in Iraq protecting not only coalition soldiers, but also foreign employees, diplomats and Iraqi workers. They say it indicates that suspected saboteurs are expanding their targets to damage efforts to reconstruct Iraq.

Thomas Friedman, a Middle East analyst and columnist for The New York Times newspaper, recently returned from a visit to Iraq. Mr. Friedman says those responsible for the attacks are trying to create turmoil and a climate of fear that are hurting attempts to bring order in the post-war climate.

"Well I think the objective is to sow chaos. The best target, basically, is an utterly innocent humanitarian organization. Because it really says to Iraq and the world that if the United Nations is not safe, nobody is safe," he said.

The top American administrator in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer, told NBC television that while it is not yet clear who is responsible for the bombing on U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, a group linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network may be to blame.

"It is the case that after the war it appears that a number of terrorists from the Ansar al-Islam group have re-infiltrated into Iraq. We are concerned about that. We also have other foreign terrorists who have been arriving from other borders," he said.

Ambassador Bremer said most Iraqis look at the bombing of U.N. headquarters, along with recent attacks on oil pipelines and water delivery systems, as an effort to prevent progress towards a peaceful and prosperous future.

"The governing council, which is the interim government of Iraq, issued a very strong statement condemning this attack as being an attack against the Iraqi people and saying that it would not deflect them from their determination to rebuild their country. I think that accurately reflects the views of most Iraqis," he said.

Middle East analyst and newspaper columnist Thomas Friedman says more American troops are needed to provide security in Baghdad and throughout the country.

But Mr. Friedman says even more important is for coalition forces to give Iraqis additional responsibility to run their country after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

"If I had one wish today it would be the governing council, this kind of infant governing authority in Iraq, were to announce what they have been working on now for several weeks, an Iraqi cabinet, putting Iraqis in charge of every ministry and a jobs program for 300,000 jobs in Iraq," he said. "That is the right answer to this kind of attack."

Mr. Friedman says the people who blew up the U.N. office in Baghdad are trying to blow up Iraq's future.

While he argues the United States should expedite the turnover of power to local citizens, he says only the Iraqis themselves can rescue their country and keep it from sliding into chaos and anarchy.