IN SHORTS

Slovak diplomats and aid heading for Baghdad

SLOVAK diplomats will return to Baghdad within two or three weeks, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Kukan.

At an informal meeting of foreign ministers of 15 EU member states and 10 candidate countries on the Greek island of Rhodes, Kukan said on May 2: "We have constantly monitored the situation in Baghdad and we expect our diplomats to return there within two or three weeks."

Kukan could not say anything about the condition of the Slovak embassy in Baghdad.

"We only know that the building was plundered; however, we have also heard that the charge d'affaires residence could be used," he said.

European ministers said the return of their diplomats to Baghdad would strengthen European presence in Iraq and make distributing humanitarian aid easier.

Meanwhile, Slovakia has agreed to send Sk25 million (€625,000) worth of aid to Iraq.

Interior Minister Vladimír Palko said that the move was in response to an earlier call by the United Nations.

He said that over the course of the coming six months, the total humanitarian aid sent to Iraq should reach about $2.2 billion (€1.9 billion), while the highest contributions are expected from countries that participated directly in the military action there.

"Sk25 million is adequate considering how [small] Slovakia is," Palko said.

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