U.N. relief agencies are planning their initial response to humanitarian needs in case of a possible war in Iraq. U.N. Security Council spokesman Fred Eckhard confirmed that this month, U.N. agencies, meeting privately in Geneva, appealed for more than $37 million from several nations to prepare for a possible crisis in Iraq. "The whole humanitarian community of the United Nations system that sits down and says "what would we need as a minimum for the first phases of a fallout from a military action in Iraq?" The World Food Program would make the food estimates and so on and it goes across the board and on that basis they came up with this $37.4 million dollar request," says Mr. Eckhard.

Mr. Eckhard made his comments at a news conference in response to a report in the Times of London newspaper that the United Nations is positioning emergency supplies, food and evacuation procedures in Iraq. The U.N. is planning for a war even though it hopes Saddam Hussein will avoid a conflict by complying with the Security Council's latest resolution on weapons inspection.

The spokesman would not estimate the number of refugees the relief agencies are predicting, nor would he reveal which regions in Iraq the humanitarian groups are focusing on. However, Mr. Eckhard said that the United Nations has an obligation to prepare for the "worst case scenario." "I do not think anyone can accurately predict the outcome of war," he says. "What we have done in this case is say "what do we think is prudent to have in position now as a first step?""

Mr. Eckhard said that the $37 million figure is based on minimum estimates for setting up a contingency plan, but a far larger figure would be needed to tend to humanitarian needs should war break out in Iraq.