10/04/2003

Iraqi humanitarian relief is priority says Short

As the military phase of operations in Iraq comes to an end the priority will be to provide order and humanitarian relief and to establish an interim authority, International Development Secretary Clare Short said today.

In her Commons update on the humanitarian situation and post-conflict plans, the International Development Secretary said it was "critical" to get the Oil for Food working again as quickly as possible.

Major reform and reconstruction requires a legitimate government authority, said Ms Short, and the United Nations has a "vital role to play in helping the Iraqi people to establish a broad-based and fully representative interim authority".

On the wider implications for the Middle East, Ms Short said: "The atmosphere in the wider region is currently tense and angry and the conflict has caused economic decline in neighbouring countries. Economic development in Iraq will benefit its people and the wider region but we must also remember that there is also a severe humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and that progress in the Middle East requires full implementation of the road map to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel by 2005."

The resources to provide humanitarian aid is growing and on March 28 Britain committed £65 million to a UN appeal and, along with the US, EU, France, Germany and the Netherlands, the total pot is now over $1.2 billion. The appeal called was for $2.2 billion for six months and the UN is hopeful that this will be partly funded by the Oil for Food Programme.

The total DFID commitment to support humanitarian work in Iraq is now £115 million made up of £32 million to the Red Cross, £78 million to the UN and £5 million to NGOs. Another £95 million available for further contributions in response to evolving needs. In the meantime, the Treasury has already earmarked £30 million to fund humanitarian efforts.

(GMcG)

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