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UN Withdraws Staff from Baghdad for Consultations - 2003-10-30

The United Nations is temporarily pulling its international staff out of Baghdad. Only a few dozen foreign staff remain in Iraq, almost all of them in the north.

U.N. officials say 12 foreign U.N. staff members in Baghdad are being immediately withdrawn, while security conditions are re-evaluated. The decision comes in the wake of Monday's deadly bombing at the Iraq headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

U.N. spokesman Stefan Dujarrac calls the withdrawal a temporary measure. "We've asked our staff in Baghdad to come out temporarily for consultations," he said, "with a team from headquarters to look at the future of operations, in particularly security arrangements that we would need to take to operate in Iraq."

Mr. Dujarrac said about 30 international staff will remain, most of them in northern Iraq, where security conditions are considered better.

An independent panel appointed by Secretary General Kofi Annan last week reported that the entire U.N. security system is dysfunctional, and recommended wholesale changes. The report said security lapses left the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad vulnerable to attacks, such as the one that killed 22 people in August.

Spokesman Dujarrac said the attack at ICRC headquarters was a factor in the decision to pull out of the Iraqi capital. "If you look at the events over the past few days, the situation is very volatile," he said. "The secretary general has to take into account the security of his staff."

In addition to the few remaining international staff, Mr. Dujarrac noted that 4,000 local staff members are continuing to deliver services in Iraq. He refused to speculate on when the latest to leave might return, but stressed that the United Nations remains committed to its Iraq operations.