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Baghdad bomb prompts aid pullout

The blast demolished three floors of the U.N.'s Baghdad headquarters.
The blast demolished three floors of the U.N.'s Baghdad headquarters.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The shock waves from the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad continue to be felt with aid groups saying they are pulling out their staff.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had pledged the world body will press ahead with its efforts to restore order in Iraq despite Tuesday's strike that killed at least 23 people, including the U.N.'s top envoy in Iraq.

But both the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which had been coordinating attempts to assess the shattered country's needs before a donors' conference in Spain in October, said they had ordered staff to leave. It was too early to say when they would return.

Officials have also said pledges of more than $5 billion will be needed to keep the floundering economy afloat in 2004 alone.

Authorities are now more vigilant about security in light of the attack.

At the scene of the blast, soldiers conducted a controlled explosion Thursday to demolish a portion of the roof that was hanging tenuously, posing a danger to searchers looking for more human remains in the rubble. Two people are still unaccounted for.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the agency is looking for alternative space in Iraq since the facility is unusable.

At the United Nations in New York, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that the United States is looking into a new U.N. resolution that would compel member states to help bolster security and stability in Iraq.

An Arabic-language TV channel, Al Arabiya said it got a claim of responsibility for the bombing from a group that called itself the "Armed Vanguards of the Second Mohammed Army." The report said the "statement promised to make war on all foreigners and do similar acts."

Analysts' estimates of the total cost of rebuilding Iraq vary between $84 billion and $500 billion.

According to Edmund O'Sullivan, editor-in-chief of the Middle East Economic Digest, the international community will need to find $15 billion a year over the next 10 years -- several times more than the Iraqi economy will earn.

The European Union also said it was reducing its presence in Baghdad. Three officials on temporary assignment will be pulled out, leaving only three on long-term duty to handle humanitarian aid issues.

But The Associated Press reported that Michael Mann, a spokesman for the EU's executive Commission, said in Brussels, Belgium, that officials were still evaluating the situation.

Most aid workers are used to working in risky environments with poor security.

A Red Cross vehicle was attacked in Iraq on July 22, for example. An aid worker from Sri Lanka was killed and the Iraqi driver wounded. The U.N. World Food Program was targeted in a July 6 grenade attack in the northern city of Mosul that killed an Iraqi driver.

But the extent of death and destruction from Tuesday's truck bombing shocked even the most experienced in the field.

Charles Vincent, deputy director of the World Food Program, told AP: "Our task is to keep bringing in the 450,000 to 500,000 tons of food a month. The Iraqi population depends on that and we need to find a way to do that safely."

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