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IRIN Middle East | Middle East | MIDDLE EAST | MIDDLE EAST: MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 27 for 17-23 June 2005 | Other | Weekly
Sunday 25 December 2005
 
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MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 27 for 17-23 June 2005


[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


Key Humanitarian Developments in Iraq

Inadequate procedures at US military checkpoints in Iraq have endangered the lives of civilians, journalists and US service members, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a joint letter to US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld.

The letter, issued on Friday, called for the immediate implementation of a series of recommendations that were made by the US military's internal investigation into a 4 March checkpoint shooting. Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari was killed and Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, just released by kidnappers, was injured in the shooting by US forces.

The recommendations included installing 'temporary speed bumps and spike strips at checkpoints to slow down vehicles, launching a public awareness campaign to educate the Iraqi population about how to safely approach checkpoints and using signs in both Arabic and English to warn drivers'.

In reference to protecting civilian lives in armed conflict, UN Under-Secretary-General, Jan Egeland addressed the Security Council on Tuesday highlighting that not enough progress had been made to 'keep pace with the challenges that civilians face in conflict situations'.

"The disturbing rise in sectarian violence in Iraq, with almost daily, deadly, suicide bombing attacks in May and June, starkly illustrate the extreme vulnerability of civilians caught in crossfire or targeted in direct terrorist attacks," he said. The number of media reported civilian deaths for the first quarter of this year were twice as many as last year. "As many as 1,000 civilians may have been killed since April," said Egeland.

In a separate move, the United Nations announced this week that it would release more than US $20 million held in an escrow account to help Iraq pay its UN dues and related obligations. The money has been held in the account set up under the Oil-for-Food Programme (OFFP) to pay for the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said that $200 million would be transferred to the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and the balance of $20,256,697 would be credited against Iraq's arrears in its contributions to the UN regular budget, peacekeeping operations and the activities of the war crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Opening an international conference on Iraq in Brussels on Wednesday, Annan urged the international community to share more broadly the burden of reconstruction and stabilisation.

"[Iraqis] look to this conference for a clear sign that the international community will be their determined and dedicated companions on the tough road that they must walk to achieve a stable, peaceful, democratic Iraq," Annan told the one-day conference co-hosted by the European Union (EU) and the US. The aim of the meeting was to appeal for more international support to enable Iraq to rebuild itself and particularly to seek relief from debts. It was attended by the representatives of some 80 countries and international organisations.

Meanwhile, nearly 500 sq km of Iraqi territory has been cleared of landmines over the past year by UN backed projects. The most heavily mined areas are in central and southern Iraq but there are no accurate figures at to how much land is mined or harbours unexploded ordnance (UXOs).

"Dangerous areas cannot be farmed but safe land is potentially productive land," Staffan de Mistura, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Deputy Special Representative for Humanitarian, Reconstruction and Development Affairs said. "And agricultural production feeds not only people but also development."

Approximately one in every five Iraqis, or 5.4 million people, lives within one kilometre of an area highly contaminated by explosive remnants of war, the UN said.

CONTENTS:

IRAQ: Water main attack affects two million in Baghdad
IRAQ: Salaries increased to improve education
IRAQ: Focus on treatment of foreign Arabs
IRAQ: Australian wheat safe for consumption, officials announce
IRAQ: Aid agencies call for access to Karabila
EGYPT: US call for democracy meets mixed reaction
EGYPT: Academic freedom essential for democracy, activists say
IRAN: Reformists on the ropes amidst charges of vote rigging
IRAN: Marking World Refugee Day
SYRIA: Capital water infrastructure to be upgraded
YEMEN: Challenge of improving electricity supply



IRAQ: Water main attack causes serious water shortages in Baghdad

Two million Baghdad residents have been without drinking water since 19 June after saboteurs targeted a major water main in the capital. "The attack on the water pipes was a shock to all residents. Insurgents are not only killing innocent people but also destroying the daily lives of millions of people," Amer Salman, a senior Baghdad governorate official, said. Salman added that they were working hard to repair the main but said that it may take up to a week to have it functioning properly again, although small-scale pumping may start within two days.

Full report



IRAQ: Salaries increased to improve education

Salaries have been increased and in some cases have doubled for university lecturers in Iraq in an effort to improve the dilapidated education system and encourage academics to return to the country to resume work. The Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) said the new salaries would be effective from July.

Full report



IRAQ: Focus on treatment of foreign Arabs

Ahmed Bodini, a Sudanese national, was driving his family home from a supermarket in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, when he was stopped at a checkpoint by government troops and interrogated. "The national guards made me get out of the car and started swearing at me and humiliated me in front of my family because they discovered that I was Sudanese. I was immediately handcuffed and blindfolded and taken for three days of interrogation at a prison and beaten," Bodini said.

Full report



IRAQ: Australian wheat safe for consumption, officials announce

The Iraqi government has announced that Australian wheat, reportedly contaminated with iron dust, is safe for human consumption and is going to be discharged without delay. Baghdad thus finally cleared the 120,000 mt shipment of wheat, which has been stored in the southern port of Umm-Qasr since 18 April. The wheat was a part of a one million mt contract between Iraq and the Australian Wheat Board (AWB). Wheat is an important part of Baghdad's regular food supplies to needy Iraqis and a staple element in their diet.

Full report



IRAQ: Aid agencies call for access to Karabila

Aid agencies and doctors have called on Coalition forces in Iraq to allow them safe access to the village of Karabila in the west of the country, as battles between troops and insurgents continue. "The situation is critical in the village of Karabila. Hundreds of injured people are inside the town requiring urgent medical treatment but have been prohibited to leave the village by US forces and we are not authorised to enter there," Dr Hamed al-Alousi, director at the nearby al-Qaim general hospital, said.

Full report



EGYPT: US call for democracy meets mixed reaction

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's calls for free and fair elections in Egypt has drawn mixed reactions from pro-democracy movements and the Egyptian government. After meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Rice delivered what the US State Department had termed a 'major policy speech' at the American University in Cairo in the heart of Egypt's capital on Monday.

Full report



EGYPT: Academic freedom essential for democracy, activists say

Human rights activists in Egypt have reiterated a call for freedom and independence of universities saying this is essential to a successful democratic transformation in Egypt. The comments follow a Human Rights Watch Report (HRW) published in May which outlined limitations to academic independence and freedom in the country.

Full report



IRAN: Reformists on the ropes amid charges of vote rigging

Iran's reformists were left reeling after a hard-line conservative candidate swept into second place in the presidential elections. Voters must now decide between Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and powerful ex-president and cleric, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the country's first ever presidential election run-off on Friday. The shock win by Ahmadinejad prompted unprecedented accusations of ballot rigging by centrist reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi. On Monday, Tehran announced a partial recount in four cities to try and ascertain whether voting or vote counting irregularities had occurred.

Full report



IRAN: Nation receives praise from UN on World Refugee Day

Top UN officials have praised Iran for hosting more refugees than almost any other country in the world, in remarks made in the capital, Tehran, marking World Refugee Day on Monday. "Iran still ranges among the countries that have the highest number of refugees in the world. This is a record which Iran and Iranian people can be proud of as a demonstration of a humanitarian commitment," UNHCR's resident representative in Tehran, Sten Bronee, said at a press conference.

Full report



SYRIA: Capital's water infrastructure to be upgraded

Mains water supply pipes that currently lose around a third of their contents through leakage will be upgraded at the end of June, following an agreement between the Japanese government and Syrian authorities. The system carries water to around three million people living in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The mains supply pipes link the Fijeh Spring, 15 km west of the capital, with the city itself and constitutes the major source of drinking water for residents.

Full report



YEMEN: Challenge of improving electricity supply

As summer temperatures soar to 40 centigrade, many Yemenis have to battle the constant heat without refrigeration, lighting, air conditioning or fans because of repeated power cuts. The erratic power supply is a consequence of an inadequate and antiquated electricity system that badly needs updating, observers say.

Full report



[ENDS]


 Theme(s) Other
Other recent MIDDLE EAST reports:

Appeal to Arab world to give more to world’s poorest,  16/Dec/05

MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 52 for 11–15 December 2005,  15/Dec/05

“Invisible” children suffering from neglect, says UNICEF,  15/Dec/05

MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 51 for 4 – 8 December 2005,  11/Dec/05

MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 50 for 25 November – 1 December,  2/Dec/05

Other recent reports:

RWANDA: Body found in Brussels canal confirmed that of ex-minister's, 23/Dec/05

CENTRAL ASIA: Weekly news wrap, 23/Dec/05

WEST AFRICA: IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 309 covering 17 - 23 December 2005, 23/Dec/05

CENTRAL ASIA: IRIN-Asia Weekly Round-up 51 covering the period 17 - 23 December 2005, 23/Dec/05

SOUTHERN AFRICA: IRIN-SA Weekly Round-up 262 for 17-23 December 2005, 23/Dec/05

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