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US Expresses Understanding of Iraq Pullback by UN, Red Cross - 2003-10-31

The United States expressed understanding Thursday for decisions by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to withdraw personnel from Baghdad, following the latest suicide car bombings in the Iraqi capital.

Secretary of State Colin Powell had made telephone appeals earlier this week to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and International Red Cross president Jakob Kellenberger telling them that withdrawals from Iraq would hand a victory to terrorists.

But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says Mr. Powell's reaction to news that both organizations would be removing staff from Baghdad was not disappointment, but understanding for the painful choice they had to make.

"He understands there's a balance here. It's the same kind of balance, as I said, that he has to reach with regard to his own personnel. And he understands that they have to make a difficult decision," he said.

The International Red Cross, the target of a car bombing Monday, said it would reduce its staff in Baghdad while the United Nations, hit by a devastating blast in August that killed its top Iraq envoy, said Thursday it is withdrawing its remaining foreign staff.

Mr. Boucher said the United States looks forward to both groups returning to full strength and full operations in Iraq as soon as they can.