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Coalition welcomes Swiss aid efforts in Iraq

Coalition forces offered to help ensure Swiss aid reached Iraqis

(Keystone)

Switzerland says the coalition forces in Iraq have voiced support for its humanitarian relief efforts.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) said the British and Americans in Baghdad had offered "every assistance".

The SDC's humanitarian aid expert, Toni Frisch, went to Iraq on a fact-finding mission for the Swiss government shortly after the liaison bureau opened on May 5.

Frisch told swissinfo that he had met the coalition parties three times in as many days and had laid out what the Swiss planned to do in the region.

"We described our programmes, where we wanted to go and who our partners were, [namely] the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and non-governmental organisations."

Speaking from Baghdad, Frisch said the talks were a success, paving the way for the Swiss liaison office to get on with their work.

"[The coalition forces] have even been very open and have offered every assistance," Frisch emphasised, "[now] we feel we can really execute what we are planning with no limitations or restrictions at all."

The aid expert insisted that relations between the Swiss and the coalition powers in Iraq were cordial.

"They have their obligations and functions and we are respecting them as an occupying force. They are respecting us as an independent and neutral representative of a government institution."

Lack of security

Swiss relief efforts in Iraq are focussing primarily on water sanitation and health care and will continue to do so in the near future, Frisch told swissinfo.

However, conditions on the ground are still far from ideal for the administering humanitarian assistance.

Frisch said lawlessness still prevailed in Baghdad and the country was far from secure.

“The major concern remains security. Lootings are still going on and even kidnappings,” Frisch said.

But the coalition forces even offered to ensure - as far as they could - that aid was securely transported to where it was needed, Frisch said.

Mobile workshop

During his fact-finding mission, Frisch visited a number of Swiss-sponsored projects, which were already underway in Iraq.

One is establishing a water-sanitation system in the city of Kerbala.

Another project is a mobile workshop in a lorry for maintaining hospital generators and water-pumping systems.

Frisch said the workshop was started before the recent hostilities broke out and was kept going during the war, making "people very happy".

swissinfo, Faryal Mirza

Key facts

The Swiss reopened their liaison office in Baghdad at the beginning of May.
The office was closed for two months during the war in Iraq, which started in March.
The office provides humanitarian aid to Iraqis and coordinates with international charities and NGOs.
Switzerland has earmarked SFr30 million ($22.8 million) for reconstructing post-war Iraq.

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