Security Council shown Iraq damage report

United Nations: Jan 7 (South News) The 15-member Security Council has been shown a report on the impact the joint US and British military strikes on Iraq had on the UN's humanitarian program.

Rolf Knutsson, a senior aide to UN chief Kofi Annan, circulated a "limited assessment" of the impact of the air strikes on the humanitarian program.

Under that program, sanctions-hit Iraq is allowed to export up to $5.2 billion worth of oil in return for food and medicine.

Mr Knutsson says Iraq has informed the United Nations in Baghdad that conditions did not permit a UN investigation, and that Iraq would make its own assessment of the damage from the strikes.

The December 16-19 attacks were carried out after UN chief weapons inspector Richard Butler said Iraq had failed to fully cooperate with his inspection teams.

The damage report, the first independent assessment to be carried out since the strikes, was compiled by the UN Children's Fund, the World Food Program and the UN's Baghdad office.

One of the main water systems in Baghdad's Karrada suburb was hit by a cruise missile, cutting off supplies to about 300,000 people. UNICEF has asked the U.N. Security Council's sanctions committee to approve water treatment materials immediately, saying the city was faces a shortage of clean water.

In terms of human casualties, the report only mentioned two guards seriously injured when the Iraqi Labour Ministry took a direct hit. One trucker was also slightly hurt when a warehouse in Tikrit was hit.

Among the reports contents:

Damage to hospitals and schools in Baghdad, the southern city of Basra, and northern Kirkuk was mainly restricted to broken glass and some demolished ceilings and doors.

A Baghdad water main took a direct hit from a cruise missile and there was also damage to the water distribution network in Basra.

The UN staff did not visit the Basra oil refinery, which was targeted in the raids.

A secondary school of agriculture in Kirkuk sustained a direct hit. A UNICEF team was not able to accurately assess the damage "as the possibility of cluster bombs still intact in the premises prevails".

Extensive damage was done to a World Food Program warehouse in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, containing 2,600 metric tonnes of rice. At least half of the rice was destroyed or burned by a missile on the first day of the four-day strikes, which left "a vast crater in the stockpiles of rice".

The World Food Program was able to visit all 18 warehouses where food was stocked.

The UN agency found that while no distribution gap occurred during the conflict, low stocks of wheat grain were reported nationwide.

"Current stocks will cover only an average of 68 per cent of monthly requirements for this commodity," the program warned.

Stocks were particularly critical in the southern Basra governorate, where 18 per cent of monthly food requirements were available.