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Europe plans airlift to Iraq

(B2) Organize an airlift to repatriate seriously injured people to Europe. It is an initiative of the President of the Commission, Romano Prodi. Initiative which would in fact date from the image of the little Iraqi child with his arms torn off.

In Athens yesterday, President Prodi discussed it with Jacques Chirac. In his press conference, the French president referred to it, also saying that he had discussed it with the Greek presidency and Tony Blair (the British Prime Minister. " All of us have given our support to this initiative ". Prodi said today in Athens at the European conference: " in extreme cases, and only if necessary, unavoidable and cannot be treated in their country, desperate cases (such as children) could be airlifted to a neighboring country or to the European Union ».

The details must be determined by the partners in the field (NB: humanitarian NGOs, Red Cross, etc.). For the moment, there is not really any detail on this point. The European humanitarian office Echo is studying the issue closely. The spokesperson for Poul Nielson, the Commissioner responsible for Humanitarian Aid, told us today, however, " The European priority remains the improvement of the local health system. We continue to do humanitarian aid on the spot to send medicines ».

The Commission's experience

The Commission has carried out airlifts in the past (Ethiopia, Ex-Yugoslavia, etc.) and continues to do so in Africa, but based more on logistical needs (delivering humanitarian or food aid) than on medical ones.

In 1998, it financed the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) - 2,5 million ECU - an airlift to distribute aid to people cut off by the floods, in Kenya and Somalia.

In 1992, airlift between Zagreb and Sarajevo (from July): supply of the city by planes from Member States (up to 20 rotations per day)

In 1990, financing of an airlift to repatriate Egyptian and Asian workers (100.000) stranded in Iraq and Kuwait to their country of origin. The Community has chartered 215 commercial flights from 12 airlines, in addition to rotations of military aircraft made available to the Jordan-Egypt air bridge by certain Member States

Still, it provides an airlift nicknamed echolight for the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes - from Nairobi - to move people and humanitarian workers, medicines, and in very exceptional cases, medical repatriation.

It also funds an airlift"Corporation life line sudan(which operates out of Kenya).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(*) text based on notes taken on April 17, 2003

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).