UN evacuates some staff from Syrian capital

Updated: 2013-03-26 10:14

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UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations is temporarily evacuating half of its international staff from Syria due to worsening security conditions, a spokesperson for the world body confirmed Monday.

"The United Nations Security Management Team has assessed the situation and decided to temporarily reduce the presence of international staff in Damascus due to security conditions," Martin Nesirky told reporters here at a daily news briefing.

As part of the effort, Nesirky said that most of the Damascus-based staff with the Office of the Joint Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, are being temporarily relocated to Beirut, Lebanon, or to the Joint Special Representative's main office in Cairo, Egypt. All of the national staff of Syria, however, have been asked to work from home until the situation improves.

A number of mortar shells fell around the hotel in Damascus housing UN staff on Sunday and Monday, causing certain damage to the building and some cars, including one UN vehicle, he said.

There are about 100 international and 800 national staff in Damascus working with the offices of the Joint Special Representative, the Resident Coordinator, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme (WFP), the Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and other UN agencies.

"The UN will maintain inside Syria the number of staff and capacity required to continue running its critical humanitarian programs and deliver assistance to civilians in need. This is a priority for the UN," Nesirky added.

More than 70,000 people have been killed and more than three million displaced since the uprising against Syrian President al-Assad began in March 2011. Some 1.1 million people have also been forced to flee Syria and take refuge in neighboring countries.