Iraq bans UK relief workers

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The Independent Online
IRAQ has asked the United Nations to remove British and American officials working with the UN humanitarian agencies, reports from Baghdad said yesterday. The move is another effort by Iraq to increase confrontation.

UN officials reported on Thursday last week that, following the air strikes launched by London and Washington, citizens of the two countries were no longer welcome. The request was passed on to UN officials in Baghdad. The Iraqi government has also ceased issuing visas to American or British officials, and when current ones expire they will not be reissued, the reports say.

Because the complaint was issued verbally, there was confusion at the United Nations. "There is a concern here, and we are seeking clarification from the government," said John Mills, the UN spokesman for the oil-for- food programme in New York. The UN Security Council is due to discuss Iraq tomorrow.

The UN has about 420 humanitarian relief workers in central and northern Iraq, working with the UN's oil-for-food programme, which allows Iraq to export oil and use the proceeds to feed its people. Only about two dozen are British or American. More than 100 relief workers were evacuated to Jordan during the bombing but they later returned.

Iraq has also said that it will refuse to allow the UN weapons inspectors to return, and it has started to fire missiles at US and British aircraft patrolling the two no-fly zones in the north and south of the country. It says that the no-fly zones, imposed by the allies after the Gulf War, are illegitimate.