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Iraq Refuses Food and Medicine Imports

Aun Ali Rahman writes:
        "A new trend in media coverage: Since it has become very hard for
the US government and media to ignore the fact that the Iraqi people have
suffered considerably under sanctions, efforts are being made to place the
responsibility of the genocide entirely on Saddam Hussein(this article
being one example). By placing all the blame on Saddam, the media seems to
be condoning America's Iraq policy and the US government's responsibility
for the effects of sanctions and bombings." 

        Once you've read the latest from Barbara Crossette and become 
sufficiently angry, send a Letter to the New York Times at
or send it directly to Mary Drohan (the letters editor) at
        Letters should include name, address and phone number.
        WE WILL OVERCOME!  Peace, Erik G.

        January 13, 1999

        Iraq Refuses Food and Medicine Imports

        UNITED NATIONS -- Evidence is growing that President Saddam
Hussein has put off buying or distributing vital food and medicine that he
can import through limited oil sales, diplomats and U.N. officials said on
Tuesday. They spoke as pressure mounted to lift economic sanctions on Iraq
to improve the lives of its people.
        Of particular concern is childhood nutrition, the officials said. 
        Nearly $25 million has been budgeted for high-protein biscuits and
fortified milk for children under 5 and nursing mothers since last fall, but
the Iraqis have not placed any orders for these goods despite repeated
urging for several months by U.N. officials, including Secretary General
Kofi Annan. At the same time the Iraqi government publishes alarming figures
of childhood deaths, for which Saddam blames sanctions. 
        An envoy familiar with Iraqi purchases, which must be approved by a
Security Council committee, said that drugs for treating childhood leukemia
were also not ordered, although Iraq has seen a rise in the problem and had
been given the go-ahead to buy medications. 
        Iraq has also begun refusing offers of help from several Arab
nations trying to deliver relief goods, which are allowed under U.N.
sanctions. Furthermore, Iraq may be exporting grain illegally, rather than
using a bumper wheat harvest to bolster domestic food stocks, some diplomats
and officials suspect. 
        The amounts are relatively small parts of the budget that the United
Nations allows Iraq for imported food and medicine, and the reasons for
Iraq's inaction are unclear or in dispute. 
        The Security Council is trying to assess the conditions faced by the
Iraqi people, who have been living under sanctions for more than eight
years. Restrictions on gathering information freely in Iraq make this job
difficult. The council is going to hear a comprehensive briefing by the
director of the Iraq program, Benon Sevan. That meeting was postponed on
Tuesday to Thursday. 
        Iraq is trying to increase its revenues in other areas. Iraq said on
Tuesday that it is ordering that record amounts of oil be pumped, more than
independent experts think the dilapidated system can easily produce. 
        U.N. officials say that in the last three weeks, Iraq pumped an
average of two million barrels of oil a day. On Tuesday in Baghdad, an oil
ministry official said that the country would try to raise that to three
million barrels a day in coming months. 
        A Mideast oil expert said in an interview that this is enough oil to
cause concern to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, now
facing historically low oil prices. A few of those countries, most notably
Saudi Arabia, have been critical of Saddam, and some diplomats suggest that
the spurt in oil production may be in line with Iraqi calls for uprisings
against governments that are critical of Iraq. 
        The oil expert, Walid Khadduri, executive editor of the Middle East
Economic survey, based in Cyprus, said that the new Iraqi projections run
counter to previous claims made to the United Nations as recently as last
month that increased production was not possible until wells were upgraded. 
        Under the "oil for food" program, Iraq is allowed to sell $5.26
billion in oil every six months to raise money for civilian needs, but
current oil prices have kept Iraq below that target. Some of the income goes
toward paying compensation for the war over Kuwait, but most goes to Iraq. 
        Sevan is expected to report on Thursday that the oil-for-food plan,
which Iraq long rejected, has begun to show improvements in the health and
nutritional levels of Iraqis. 
        The lowest levels of success have been found in
government-controlled areas of central and southern Iraq, where malnutrition
rates have nonetheless leveled off, according to a report now being
        In Kurdish areas of the north, where U.N. agencies like the World
Health Organization and the World Food Program -- and not the Iraqi
government -- are in charge of distributing food, medicine and other goods,
results have been better, with nutritional levels rising and health
standards improving. 
        Demographic differences account for some of the reasons why the more
populated central and southern regions are not showing the improvements
measured in Kurdish areas. But questions remain about the attitude of
Saddam, who has never liked the limits on oil sales. 
        The government has resisted until this month adding whole-cream milk
and cheese to the monthly rations available to every Iraqi, and Baghdad has
also lagged at raising the caloric levels of those rations as recommended by
international experts. 
        Inexplicable delays hold up distribution of medicines that are stuck
in warehouses, officials say. Iraqi officials say that imported medicines
must pass through a lengthy quality-testing process and that even then there
is not enough equipment to move the supplies out. 
        The Iraqis have refused to allow relief workers to see and assess
damage Iraq said was done to civilian sites by American and British air
strikes in December, a survey requested by the Security Council. 
        Only UNICEF has been able to collect information on a substantial
number of buildings reported hit. Its survey found mostly shattered windows
and some roof and exterior damage at schools and clinics. The most serious
destruction was a direct hit on a water line to a Baghdad neighborhood,
according to Iraqi officials, and the bombing of an agricultural school in
the town of Kirkuk, which UNICEF verified. 
        The World Food Program reported on one site: a rice warehouse in
Tikrit, Saddam home town, which was hit. Half the contents were destroyed,
but distribution continued, the agency said. 
        <NYT_FOOTER version = 1.0


Aun Ali Rahman
Charles River Associates, Inc.
200 Clarendon St., T-33
Boston, MA 02116

Tel: 617-425-3039 (O)
      617-738-9037 (H)

Fax: 617-425-3132


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