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U.N. vows to soldier on in Iraq

Suicide bomb near U.N. headquarters in Baghdad last week killed 8 Iraqis.
Suicide bomb near U.N. headquarters in Baghdad last week killed 8 Iraqis.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The acting head of the U.N. mission has vowed to continue with its humanitarian work in Iraq, despite two deadly bomb attacks and cutbacks to its international staff.

Kevin Kennedy said Wednesday the work would be done with thousands of Iraqi staffers, whom he termed "indispensable."

"We are continuing to work. We are making adjustments to our operating modalities, to our staffing, to where our priorities are," said Kennedy, who is temporarily taking the place of Ramiro Lopes da Silva, the U.N. mission head, who is on holiday.

Kennedy called the region "an active war zone" and said military combat continues. "Everybody is at risk to some degree."

"As you know, this is a very difficult security situation in Iraq today," Kennedy said. "It affects all of us, most importantly it affects the Iraqi people who have to live through all this. And, it certainly affects all of us in the attachment community and the U.N. community who are trying to render assistance to the Iraqi people."

Twenty-two people were killed at U.N. headquarters in a suicide bombing in August. A suicide bombing in September in Baghdad left an Iraqi security guard and the bomber dead.

"I think everybody is concerned. That's for sure. We work here with the memories of the 22nd of August and the 19th of September but we continue on. People here know what their job is.

"They're committed to it, dedicated to it, dedicated to carrying out the work for the people of Iraq."

Last week, at the advice of the U.N. security coordinator, Secretary-General Kofi Annan downsized international staff.

"As you can see we're still here, as are myself and many of our colleagues. we have reduced our numbers of international staff in country.

"The numbers have changed every day. We have people coming from neighboring countries, and coming out for visits every day or one-day visits. We have a fairly successful staff on the ground throughout the country, especially down south (in the Basra region)."

Among the successful humanitarian efforts is the World Food Programme. Kennedy said 500,000 tons of food come to Iraq monthly.

-- From CNN Baghdad Producer Matt McFetridge

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