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Annan prepares Iraq aid plan

Annan
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Thursday urged members to act quickly to meet Iraq's humanitarian needs and make interim modifications "to current arrangements" including the oil-for-food program.

The program was established in August 1990 to alleviate the suffering inflicted on the Iraqi people from the "comprehensive sanctions on Iraq following that country's invasion of Kuwait," the U.N.'s Web site said.

Annan on Tuesday suspended the work in Iraq of U.N. humanitarian personnel and put together a proposal for addressing "emergency humanitarian assistance."

Annan does not have the power to put forward a U.N. resolution but his proposal document would be used instead as a draft that one of the council members would then submit.

A U.S. official said the permanent five Security Council members -- U.S., Britain, France, China, and Russia -- might meet Thursday to discuss Annan's suggestions but would probably not put the matter to a vote until next week.

The permanent five would work out a final draft before circulating it to the full Security Council.

Among his recommendations, Annan wants to be given "the necessary flexibility to play his role in meeting the immediate humanitarian needs of the Iraqi population," including taking all measures necessary "to ensure the implementation of the new resolution."

Before the war began, Annan had estimated the immediate cost of humanitarian aid at $123.5 million, adding "much larger sums would be necessary to finance actual relief operations."

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte had told the Security Council the United States has dedicated "significant resources" to prepare to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, and would support efforts to keep the U.N. oil-for-food program in place to pay for relief efforts.

The oil-for-food program, which funds food and medical aid to Iraq, is currently set to expire June 5.

"We have pre-positioned $16.5 million worth of food rations and relief supplies, including water and purification materials, blankets and shelter supplies in the region," Negroponte said.

"In addition, we have contributed over $60 million to more than a dozen different U.N. agencies... as well as a multitude of non-governmental organizations."

British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said his government has set aside $110 million for humanitarian aid and is likely to announce further funding. International Development Secretary Clare Short has come to the United Nations for meetings with Annan on the subject, he said.

Germany, too, said it was prepared to offer aid. "Germany does not take part in this war, but of course Germany is not going to stand by idly if it is about helping people," Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Thursday in a videotaped statement.

"We are ready to help with humanitarian help within the framework of the United Nations."

"It is very urgent to take a decision on these matters," German ambassador to the U.N. Gunter Pleuger said Thursday. "Our primary concern is to help the (Iraqi) people who are suffering even more than before because of military action."

In a statement Thursday, Annan pledged "the U.N. will do whatever it can to bring (the Iraqi people) assistance and support."

--CNN producer Ronni Berke contributed to this report.


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