Vienna, 11 April 2003 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner presents Austria's aid programme for Iraqi children to UN Secretary-General


Telephone call to Powell to arrange evacuation of wounded Iraqi children

Vienna, 11 April 2003 - Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner presented the Austrian aid initiative for wounded Iraqi children to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday. "Media such as the ORF national broadcasting company and the Kronenzeitung newspaper have launched an Austria-wide appeal for donations to provide medical and humanitarian assistance for the children of Iraq. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, thanked the Austrian people for their willingness to help", said the Foreign Minister.

Yesterday Ferrero-Waldner also made a telephone call to US Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss humanitarian issues in Iraq, during which she asked the US Foreign Minister for support in arranging the evacuation of Iraqi children. According to Powell, it may be possible for the USA to provide help in transporting wounded children out of Iraq, perhaps via the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

"I have already approached the province governments of Vienna, Styria and Salzburg to try and arrange hospital beds for Iraqi children, and met with positive responses. I am also in constant contact with Mr. Kellenberger, the President of the Red Cross in Geneva, to see how we can bring those children who require the most urgent help to Austrian hospitals as quickly as possible. The hospitals in Iraq are overflowing. We need to provide rapid assistance for the children of Iraq," emphasized Ferrero-Waldner, going on to suggest the launch of an Austrian national aid campaign for the Iraqi children. In this context the Foreign Minister also welcomed the idea put forward by the head of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, Alfred Gusenbauer, who had proposed a concerted national effort and national coordination of all Austrian aid measures aimed at the Iraqi population. "The more people join the effort to provide aid for Iraqi children, the better", said Ferrero-Waldner.

In this context the Foreign Minister again stressed that the United Nations should play the "central role" in the next phase of developments in Iraq, and also expressed her concern with regard to the security situation in the country. With a relevant mandate from the UN Security Council, Ferrero-Waldner said she could also envisage the participation of Austrian police and blue helmets in a UN troop sent to stabilise the situation in Iraq. However, the Foreign Minister emphasized that such a move would require a cabinet resolution after prior adoption of a relevant mandate by the UN.

In order to coordinate international efforts to stabilise the situation in Iraq after the war, Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner also suggested Vienna to the UN Secretary-General as a suitable venue for a possible conference on Iraq. "In military terms Austria is neutral in the Iraq war, and politically we have endorsed the line of the UN Secretary-General", said Ferrero-Waldner.

Concluding, Ferrero-Waldner announced that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will be paying a visit to Vienna on 22 and 23 April.