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Fri, Aug 22, 2003 - Page 12 News List

IMF, World Bank leave Baghdad

CAUTIOUS APPROACH The suicide bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad Tuesday could delay the reconstruction efforts of international aid workers

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

UN staff members arrive in Amman airport on a chartered plane after being evacuated from the Iraqi capital following a bomb attack on the world body's headquarters that claimed at least 16 lives, Wednesday. Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, said 20 staffers wounded in the bomb blast had been evacuated to Amman, Jordan, while other expatriate personnel had been offered the chance to fly home as NGOs reconsider their presence in Iraq.

PHOTO: AFP

International organizations, led by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), began evacuating workers from Iraq on Wednesday as they pondered the implications of the deadly truck bombing on Tuesday at UN headquarters in Baghdad.

Though the departures are most likely temporary, they add to the problems that US officials are having in postwar Iraq.

The World Bank had been on the verge of opening a permanent office in Baghdad when the attack occurred.

At the time of the bombing, World Bank officials were in the final stages of collecting data for a broad assessment of Iraqi reconstruction needs, which they hope to present to an international conference of donors that will take place in Madrid in October.

Tuesday's attack could delay that effort. It could also delay efforts by the IMF to provide assistance on issues ranging from a new Iraqi currency to the creation of a new commercial code.

Instability and rising violence in Iraq have not only delayed efforts to rebuild Iraqi oil production and re-establish reliable electricity, but they have also frightened off all but the most buccaneering foreign investors and virtually all foreign multinational corporations.

Iraq desperately needs foreign investment capital, because more than half its work force is unemployed and virtually all of its industry is in a woeful state of disrepair, but the bombing is likely to have an impact on investment.

World Bank officials have been scrutinizing Iraqi needs in areas ranging from electric power and water to health care and education. The IMF has been preoccupied with helping rebuild Iraqi financial rules and institutions.

Tom Dawson, head of external relations for the IMF, said the Fund was still reassessing its strategy for keeping people in the country.

"Nobody can say," Dawson said on Wednesday. "We just have to wait and see what happens."

Wolfenson of the World Bank spoke on Wednesday with John Taylor, the assistant secretary of treasury for international affairs. Officials at the Treasury Department said both the World Bank and the IMF had pledged to remain active in Iraq.

"No one questions the courage and commitment of the staff and the institutions to go into situations like Baghdad," said Tony Fratto, a spokesman for the US Department of the Treasury. "What we have heard from the international financial institutions is a reaffirming of their commitment."

The World Bank, which had 15 employees in Iraq who worked at the UN compound, said several of its officials had been injured in the attack and that one was still missing.

The IMF said four of its six employees in Iraq suffered minor injuries and a fifth was seriously injured. They will all be evacuated.

"We have worked in East Timor, Kosovo, Bosnia, the Great Lakes district in Africa, so it's not as if we are unfamiliar with dangers and conflicts," said Joseph Saba, the World Bank's director for the Middle East region. "But our role and the perceptions of the actors in these societies has been positive, and therefore we were not targeted."

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