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Cyprus to become a humanitarian aid centre for Iraq
2003-03-14 17:48:11

Larnaca, Mar 14 (CNA)-- Cyprus will become the centre of the humanitarian support for Iraq as the United Nations are setting up a hub to coordinate humanitarian efforts in view of the looming war on Iraq.

''We set up a regional humanitarian hub for coordinating and preparing humanitarian activities if there is a conflict in Iraq'', Robert Turner, Operation coordinator for the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq said here today.|

Speaking to the press at a hotel in the costal town of Larnaca, where the UN humanitarian mission resides along with UN weapons inspectors on Iraq, Turner said that Cyprus would not be hosting any injured people from Iraq.

Turner noted that at the moment the staff is around 40 people, adding that he could not give the precise number because ''people are arriving and leaving pretty regularly''.

He also said that ''the only people coming here, are people that are actually going to have an operational responsibility in coordinating a response, if there is a conflict''.

''People are not being evacuated in Cyprus just to wait out, in case something happens'', he added.

Asked about the activities of the humanitarian group in case of a conflict in Iraq, Turner explained that ''from here there will be coordination, looking what's happening within the region, there would be a lot of strategic coordination, war stocks should be in and staff movement would be dealt with''.

Asked if local hospitals would be treating any wounded people from Baghdad, Turner noted that ''we wouldn't expect to evacuate anyone with injuries to Cyprus now''.

Invited to say whether the UN group would be traveling to Iraq frequently, Turner said ''that will depend on the situation'', adding that ''at the moment, there has been traffic back and forth''.

''We don't know how the scenario might play out if there is a conflict'', he added, noting that a great deal of effort is underway to avert a conflict.

Asked about how long he would be staying in Cyprus, Turner said that he couldn't say, adding that ''if they could resolve the conflict peacefully, we would be able to pack up quite quickly''.


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