un turns to us troops in iraq

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    UN turns to US troops to guard its staff in Iraq
    06:32, Thursday, 21 October 2004

    By Evelyn Leopold

    UNITED NATIONS, Oct 20 (Reuters) - The United Nations no
    longer objects to American soldiers to guard its staff in Iraq
    after the search for separate contingents from around the world
    failed, diplomats and U.N. sources said on Wednesday.

    A separate brigade was to have protected U.N. staff,
    especially before the planned January elections, when they left
    the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad. Fijian troops will arrive
    next month to guard them in the Green Zone.

    U.N. officials originally distanced themselves from
    American troops when traveling outside of Baghdad, believing
    their staff would become more of a target of the sporadic and
    growing violence in the country.

    But without volunteers, the United Nations asked the U.S.
    command of the Multinational Force to supply protection,
    whether or not American soldiers were involved, diplomats
    said.

    "We can't just treat them as undesirables," said one U.N.
    official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe said the United Nations was in
    discussions with the United States "on a unit of the
    Multinational Force dedicated to protection of U.N. perimeter
    security." She did not elaborate.

    Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in London on Tuesday he
    had tried to raise a brigade but "we haven't done very well."

    "And it's the same governments who are asking me to send in
    my civilian staff who are not going to give any troops to
    protect them," he said.



    FIJI GUARDS

    Okabe on Wednesday announced officially that about 130
    troops from Fiji, as expected, would arrive next month to serve
    as bodyguards and protect U.N. facilities within the Green
    Zone, with Australia providing equipment.

    "These contributions are critical to the U.N.'s efforts to
    strengthen the security arrangements for its personnel in
    Iraq," she said, "This would make it possible for the United
    Nations to consider expanding its activities in Iraq as
    circumstances permit."

    Annan pulled out international staff last October after two
    attacks on U.N. offices in Baghdad. The first bombing killed 22
    people, including chief of mission Sergio Vieira de Mello.

    In August, a small contingent took up residence in the
    Green Zone. But Annan imposed a ceiling of 35 staff because of
    the violence.

    The world body is considering some 25 election experts, six
    of whom are now in the country, a far cry from original plans
    for more than 250 staff.

    Iraqi officials have repeatedly criticized the United
    Nations for its reluctance to field more staff.

    Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari on Wednesday urged the
    United Nations to do more to help prepare for the elections. He
    noted the 300 election experts the world body had sent to tiny
    East Timor.

    "We call on the U.N. to accelerate their support and their
    presence in Iraq because time is short and we need a genuine
    engagement and involvement from the international organization
    to help us conduct these crucial elections," Zebari told
    reporters.

    Annan, during his London visit, said quelling the violence
    was essential for the elections.

    "You cannot have the kind of smooth elections that we have
    talked about, the early successful election in Afghanistan,
    that we would want to (see) in Iraq in January. And therefore
    to pacify the environment would be extremely helpful," Annan
    said.

    ((Reuters messaging:
    [email protected]; 1-212-355-7424)

    (c) Reuters Limited 2004
    REUTER NEWS SERVICE

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