U.N., embassy diplomats returnBy Associated Press,
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 3, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Veronique Taveau leaned out her window, struggling to get a signal on her handheld satellite telephone. "Khaled? Khaled? I can't find that out," she boomed. "We are not allowed to go outside the building."
It was the first day of work Friday for newly returned U.N. staff in Baghdad, and logistics were a bit difficult.
Phones were hit and miss. Computers were patched together from boards and drives found among looters' throwaways. Bradley fighting vehicles and Humvees guarded the gate.
But at the U.N. offices in the former Canal Hotel, the cafeteria was serving hot food and framed photographs of Iraqi children and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan hung on the walls.
Aid workers and diplomats who pulled out of Baghdad as war broke out are coming back. No embassy appeared to be open for business Friday, but several showed signs of life and, at others, Iraqi staffers said diplomats were expected soon.
U.N. officials estimated that 70 percent of the contents of their headquarters had been looted. But eyes, not supplies, are their most valuable commodity now.
"Our goal is to take stock of the situation - what medicine and food people need, what needs to be brought in most urgently," Taveau said.The United States and Britain are preparing a resolution that would give the United Nations a role in humanitarian relief but not peacekeeping in Iraq, a senior Bush administration official said Friday, the Associated Press reported.
Separately, the United States has decided to divide the military and humanitarian relief mission in Iraq into three parts under American, British and Polish command, the official said, on condition of anonymity. Italy, Spain, Ukraine, Denmark, the Netherlands and Bulgaria have agreed to contribute troops to the British and Polish sectors to create an international stability force, the official said, according to the Associated Press. The international stabilization force would be under U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld discussed the resolution with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon on Friday as Rumsfeld returned from a tour of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf region. Rumsfeld said afterward he hoped the U.N. would play a role but did not publicly discuss the draft resolution outlining that role.
At several embassies in Baghdad, returning diplomats didn't want to advertise their presence.
The Russian flag flew above that country's embassy Friday, but the thick brass door was shut. "Closed," said a voice over the intercom. Asked for information, he said: "No English. No Arabiya. Russki."
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin has said a diplomat was in Baghdad to assess the situation. The man at the embassy refused to say who he was, but took issue when asked about the tattered flag flying over the embassy. Of course it was not the French flag, he bristled.
"France is blue, white and red. Romania is blue, YELLOW and red," he said. "That's yellow - it's just a little faded."
And the Americans? Their embassy was abandoned before the Gulf War, and they bombed it into rubble last month. In recent years, the U.S. interests section has been at the Polish Embassy, where bearded U.S. Special Forces troops with big guns waved visitors away from atop a Humvee on Friday.
"Please don't go in. We're trying to secure the area," one bellowed.
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