Iraqi Red Crescent Official Claims Harassment by U.S. Forces Threatens Work More Than Insurgents

Harassment from U.S. forces is a greater threat to the work of the Iraqi Red Crescent than insurgent attacks, a senior official of the Red Cross-linked humanitarian organization said Friday.

Dr. Jamal Al-Karbouli, vice president of the Iraqi Red Crescent, said some U.S. forces appeared not to realize that the society, which uses as its symbol the Muslim red crescent instead of the red cross, was part of the international humanitarian movement.

"The main problem we are facing is the American forces more than the other forces," Al-Karbouli told reporters in Geneva. "We are spending a lot of time to explain about the Red Crescent."

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Al-Karbouli said insurgent groups in Iraq did not pose as great a problem for the organization.

"The insurgents, they are Iraqis, a lot of them are Iraqis, and they respect the Iraqis. And they respect our (the Red Crescent's) identity, which is neutrality."

He also complained that Red Crescent offices in Baghdad, Anbar and Najaf provinces had been repeatedly "attacked" by U.S.-led multi-national forces searching for insurgents.

"We have flags, we have everything, we have (the) logo, so they (U.S. forces) know everything, but unfortunately they come again and attack us many times," Al-Karbouli said. He complained that U.S. forces broke doors and windows at the Red Crescent headquarters "and they didn't find anything, and they left."

Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the U.S.-led coalition forces "strive to ensure they are respectful when they conduct interaction with the local population."

"When we conduct searches, we do not 'attack' the place we are searching," he said.

Al-Karbouli said insurgent groups had tried to enlist support from the Red Crescent, but the organization had refused.

"We always say no. We want to keep our neutrality," he said.

Doctors and other medical workers have been targeted by militants in bombings and shootings in Iraq's relentless violence. Hospitals also have become safe havens for insurgents or Shiite militiamen, who have sometimes holed up in them in battles with U.S. forces.

The Red Crescent, which is part of the international Red Cross movement, has around 1,000 staff and some 200,000 volunteers in the country. It works closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross which visits detainees and tries to provide food, water and medicine to Iraqis.

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