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UN Questions Future in Iraq Following 2nd Bomb Attack at Baghdad Offices - 2003-09-22

For the second time in a month, the United Nations office in Baghdad has been the target of a terrorist bombing. An Iraqi policeman and the suicide bomber were killed Monday and at least a dozen others were injured in the bombing. The attack is raising questions within the U.N. about whether it can continue working safely in the country

This latest Baghdad bombing comes as the United Nations Security Council considers expanding the U.N.'s role in Iraq. But at U.N. headquarters, Secretary General Kofi Annan told reporters the world body is instead being forced to review its operations there because of a deteriorating security situation.

"And we've been assessing the situation on a daily basis to determine if there are improvements in the situation, we will go forward," he said. "But of course if it continues to deteriorate, then our operations will be handicapped."

Many U.N. staffers left Iraq last month after a devastating car bombing in Baghdad heavily damaged the U.N. compound and killed more than 20 people, including the secretary general's envoy to the country.

The World Food Program is among the U.N. agencies still trying to carry out its work amid the attacks. But spokeswoman Antonia Paradela questions whether the agency will be able to continue caring for the Iraqi people if the violence continues.

"How many more people need to die for the U.N. to operate here? We need to operate in safe conditions, in conditions where we can work with the Iraqis to improve key infrastructure, to give key humanitarian assistance," he said.

In Baghdad, U.S. military spokeswoman Holly Meeker blamed this latest terrorist bombing on forces loyal to ousted President Saddam Hussein.

"This is yet another example of former regime loyalists hurting the Iraqi people," he said.

Monday's attack came on the eve of President Bush's address to the U.N. General Assembly. While in New York, the president is expected to meet with world leaders and push for a U.S. backed resolution designed to get more countries to contribute money and troops to the Iraqi reconstruction effort.

But many differences will have to be overcome before agreement is reached. For example, French President Jacques Chirac wants power transferred from the United States to the Iraqi Governing Council over a period of six to nine months. The U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, was asked on CBS if the Iraqi people are now ready to govern themselves.

"No they're not. There must be a written constitution followed by democratic elections. That will then lead to a fully sovereign Iraqi government," he said.

In his speech to the General Assembly Tuesday, President Bush is expected to defend the decision to invade Iraq. In an interview with the Fox News television channel, Mr. Bush said he intends to make it clear that he "made the right decision" and others joined in the decision. The president also said he does not see a need for the United Nations to take on a greater political role in Iraq, other than helping Iraqis write a new constitution and overseeing elections.