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Iraqi resistance threatens post-war progress

An Iraqi schoolgirl is searched by a soldier in Baghdad

(Keystone)

The head of the Swiss Liaison Office in Baghdad says resistance by Iraqi guerilla groups is hampering efforts to restore basic services in the country.

Martin Aeschbacher's comments come amid a major crackdown by United States forces after a series of attacks left more than 40 soldiers dead.

"There are more attacks on coalition forces than before... and there are still a lot of weapons around," he told swissinfo.

"So the situation is far from being normal, even though it is better than it was at the beginning of the month."

A spate of hit-and-run attacks by fighters loyal to the deposed leader, Saddam Hussein, prompted coalition forces to launch a new campaign at the weekend.

"Operation Desert Scorpion", is seeking to quell pockets of resistance in the capital, Baghdad, and in the north.

Aeschbacher said the US military suspected that the attacks were becoming more coordinated, though it was uncertain whether they were being planned at a national or a local level.

At least 100 Iraqis were killed during US raids on militia hideouts last week, while protests and rising anti-Americanism have been reported.

Slow pace of change

Switzerland's humanitarian aid chief in Baghdad voiced concern about the slow pace of American efforts to restore basic services to post-war Iraq.

Although many shops had reopened and the power supply had been restored to half of the capital's former capacity, provision of water continued to be a problem.

"The situation is still slow - people cannot understand how a superpower can make a war quickly, but can't return services," Aeschbacher commented.

"People don't understand American intentions," he added.

Since the latest US military operation started, thousands of US troops have been raiding towns and villages, backed by helicopters and military police.

On Sunday, at least four American soldiers were injured by grenades and a civilian bus was also hit during an attack on a US convoy north of Baghdad.

Swiss Aid

The Swiss Liaison Office is a joint initiative by the foreign ministry and the Swiss Development Agency (SDC).

The governmental bodies provide three employees each for the office in Baghdad.

Switzerland has pledged a long-term commitment to Iraq, and since 2001 has spent between SFr4-6 million ($3-5 million) a year on aid for the country.

In April, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said rebuilding Iraq was a key priority for Switzerland as she authorised an extra SFr20 million in humanitarian aid for the country.

swissinfo, Karin Kamp and Tania Peitzker

In Brief

Martin Aeschbacher, the head of the Swiss Liaison Office in Baghdad, says guerrilla attacks on US and coalition troops are on the rise.

Aeschbacher reported that basic services such as water and electricity had not yet been fully restored, prompting Iraqis to challenge the US over their humanitarian efforts.

Since the US-led invasion of Iraq, many civilians had returned to work, petrol was now available, shops had reopened and market consumption was again apparent, said Aeschbacher.

The Swiss Liaison Office is responsible for providing funding for projects to help rebuild Iraq.

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