A senior United Nations official says the organization's foreign staff will not return to Baghdad until the security situation improves. U.N. officials are holding a week-long a meeting in Nicosia to discuss the issue.

Speaking at a news briefing, the chief of the U.N.'s Humanitarian Emergency Branch, Kevin Kennedy, says it is difficult to predict when the security situation in most of Iraq would be good enough for U.N. foreign staff members to return and resume the full range of activities.

But he said the security situation is not uniform throughout the country, and there are parts where U.N. relief workers can operate fairly safely.

Most foreign U.N. staff members were pulled out of Iraq after the attack on the U.N. Baghdad headquarters in August which killed 22 people, including the head of the operation, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

A small number of foreign U.N. officials remain in northern Iraq, where it is considered to be safer. Some 4,000 Iraqis continue to work for the United Nations throughout the country

The 70 officials who met this week are to send a recommendation at the beginning of next week to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.