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UN urged to withdraw Iraq staff
August 8, 2007

The United Nations should withdraw all of its workers from Iraq until the security situation improves, the body's staff union has said.

The union believes UN personnel will not be properly protected by US-led forces in the country.

The call comes as UN officials prepare to pass a draft resolution giving the organisation an expanded role in Iraq.

The UN has had a low-key presence there since a truck bomb devastated its Baghdad headquarters in August 2003.

The world body swept most of its personnel out of the Iraqi capital after the blast, and currently allows a maximum of 65 overseas workers to reside in the country.

But the draft resolution, backed by the US and UK, would raise the upper limit on workers to 95.

'Comparative advantage'

The resolution - which will prolong the UN mission's mandate in Iraq - will also give the UN a bigger role in the country's political reconciliation.

The UN special envoy in Iraq would be allowed to "advise, support and assist" the Iraqi government in political, economic, electoral, legal, constitutional, refugee and human rights matters.

Washington's envoy to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, said he expected the new resolution to be adopted by Thursday this week.

"The UN needs to play an enhanced role in helping the Iraqis overcome the difficulties they have at the present time," he said.

"The UN can, given its comparative advantage, play a role in facilitating and helping Iraqis get to that goal."

Correspondents say the staff union's opposition to the move will deter many of its members from going.

Former Secretary General Kofi Annan pulled most of the UN's international staff out of Iraq after the top UN envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 other people died in a huge explosion at the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003.

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