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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 firstname.lastname@example.org or send it directly to Mary Drohan (the letters editor) at <email@example.com> Letters should include name, address and phone number. WE WILL OVERCOME! Peace, Erik G. January 13, 1999 Iraq Refuses Food and Medicine Imports By BARBARA CROSSETTE 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 finalized. 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 _______________________________________________________________ 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 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html