Red Cross vows to remain in Iraq

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The Independent Online

The international Red Cross decided to pull out some of its foreign employees from Iraq yesterday because of a suicide bombing at its Baghdad headquarters, but vowed to stay in the country for the sake of the Iraqi people.

"We remain committed to our work in Iraq because of the prevailing humanitarian situation," said Pierre Kraehenbuehl, director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross. Two Iraqi Red Cross employees and as many as 10 other people were killed in the bombing at the ICRC headquarters on Monday.

Exactly how many staff will leave Iraq had yet to be decided, the ICRC said. The Swiss-run agency, which stayed in the country throughout the US-led attack on the regime of Saddam Hussein, has already cut back its foreign staff in Iraq, from a maximum of 130 earlier this year to about 30 at present.

The agency had about 600 Iraqi employees who would remain in the country but, Mr Kraehenbuehl said, there were still jobs that only foreign staff could do, such as visiting prisoners held by occupying forces.

The ICRC is mandated by the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war to make such visits, to check on conditions and to enable prisoners to communicate with their families. There are up to 10,000 such prisoners, according to coalition figures.

Mr Kraehenbuehl said the agency did not want any special protection from the coalition security forces. (AP)