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Staff withdrawal from Iraq - 17 March 2003

On 17 March 2003, the United Nations Secretary-General informed the Security Council that he was no longer in a position to guarantee the safety and security of the United Nations personnel in Iraq. Accordingly, he was obliged to withdraw temporarily all remaining humanitarian personnel as well as personnel of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and all military and civilian personnel of the United Nations Iraq Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM) in Iraq. The Secretary-General noted that he was aware that these measures would lead to the suspension of the activities of the humanitarian programme in Iraq pursuant to resolution 986 (1995). However, the threat to the safety and security of the personnel concerned had in effect rendered their mandates inoperable. The Secretary-General stated, for the record, that he regards those activities as suspended de facto. The mandates established by the relevant Security Council resolutions under which these activities are carried out remain in force until such time as the Security Council should decide otherwise. The above implies that the mandate of the oil-for-food programme remains in force until such time as the Security Council should decide otherwise, and the functions performed by the UN under the programme outside Iraq would continue. Following the meeting of the Security Council on 17 March 2003, the Secretary-General stated:

"This does not mean that, should war come to Iraq, the UN will sit back and not do anything to help the Iraqi population. We will find a way of resuming our humanitarian activities to help the Iraqi people who have suffered so long, and do whatever we can to give them assistance and support. And, as you know, we have undertaken contingency planning to be able to move forward as soon as we can."


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