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News items

*       BBC on the latest UN oil-for-food report [[HG query: Firstly, if
"UK and US governments... have long argued that Iraq uses the
humanitarian fallout of UN sanctions for propaganda purposes", why
persist with current sanctions policy? Secondly, if either the US or the
UK have been anxious to broadcast this very obvious fact, I must have
missed it...]]
*       Iraq condemns 'grave new escalation' (BBC)
*       Civilian site hit in yesterday's bombing (Associated Press)
*       New trade discussions between Iraq and Jordan (BBC)
*       Iraq bans import of Swiss and Japanese products under

BBC Online, Wednesday, February 24, 1999 Published at 13:47 GMT 
Annan tells Iraq: Deliver the aid 

A near-worthless dinar leaves Iraqis dependent on hand-outs 

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says Iraq has distributed
less than half the medical supplies it has bought since the start of the
oil-for-food programme three years ago.  In his latest report on the
programme, Mr Annan says $275m worth of drugs and medical supplies were
still in Iraqi warehouses at the end of January.  About $540m worth of
supplies have been delivered to Iraq since the programme was launched in
1996. Mr Annan called on the Iraqi government to give the matter its
urgent attention. 

The report said the Iraqi government has contracted to buy only $1.7m
worth of high-protein biscuits for pregnant women out of an allocation
of $8 million.  Baghdad is also said to have submitted contracts for
only 260 tons of infant milk, even though the UN has approved deliveries
of 1,500 tons, the report said. 

Since strict UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait
in 1990, infant and child mortality rates have increased dramatically.
The report is likely to be seized on by the UK and US governments which
have long argued that Iraq uses the humanitarian fallout of UN sanctions
for propaganda purposes. 

Oil price falls hit Iraq 

Under the oil for-food programme, Iraq is allowed to sell just over $5
billion every six months to pay for food and other urgently-needed
humanitarian supplies.  Because of low oil prices, the UN report says
Iraq will only be able to generate $3.1 billion during the current six
month period.  From that amount, 30% is diverted to pay for humanitarian
supplies to the three northern provinces not governed by Baghdad, and
another 17% goes towards paying compensation to victims of the
occupation of Kuwait and the costs of Unscom, the weapons inspectors.
But delays in distribution are not the only problem for the oil-for-food

"The most serious issue facing the implementation of the programme at
present is the growing shortfall in revenues," Mr Annan said.  The
secretary-general also spoke of delays in UN approval of oil industry
spare parts imported to Iraq to rebuild Iraq's dilapidated oil
infrastructure.  In the past these imports have been put on hold by
members of the sanctions committee, particularly the US. Mr Annan
welcomed the reduction in the number of new applications that have been
put on hold. 

[Insert: the BBC also uses the following figures: 7,500 deaths per month
(UNICEF); 1.3-1.5 million child deaths since 1990 (UNICEF); 25%
malnutrition among under-fives (UN)]

BBC Online, Thursday, February 25, 1999 Published at 08:20 GMT 
Iraq condemns 'grave new escalation' 

Iraq has condemned the latest American airstrike on the outskirts of the
capital Baghdad, calling it a grave new escalation of the conflict and
an act of flagrant aggression.  On Wednesday, US warplanes carried out
their closest military action to Baghdad since the end of Operation
Desert Fox - the American and British air attacks on Iraq last December.
Iraq said several people were wounded or killed after a civilian site
was hit. 

Iraq also accused the US warplanes of flying 20 kilometres beyond the
southern "no-fly" zone, which the western allies patrol. Chairman of the
US joint chiefs of staff General Henry Shelton denied the claims,
saying: "The report is erroneous, we have not gone across the 33rd
(parallel) or south of the 36th."  Air raid sirens sounded in the city
in the early evening on Wednesday for the first time since 24 December.

Iraq's information ministry said its air-defence batteries shot down one
missile. A BBC correspondent in Baghdad, Jeremy Cooke, reported hearing
brief volleys of anti-aircraft fire, loud enough to bring many people on
to the streets, peering into the night skies. But he said the incident
did not seem a major attack, and an all-clear was later sounded in the

'Baghdad not a target' 

American military officials said US Air Force and Navy aircraft attacked
two Iraqi surface-to-air missile sites near al-Iskandariyah, a small
town about 50 kilometres south of Baghdad.  This was in response to
anti-aircraft fire directed at allied planes and an Iraqi aircraft
violation of the southern exclusion zone.  Officials said Baghdad itself
was not a target.  President Clinton said the US would not be
intimidated by Iraqi attempts to shoot down western jets. 

'Evil and aggression' 

An Iraqi military statement said 23 "enemy formations" of aircraft
carried out 48 sorties "towards the city of Baghdad".  "These black
ravens hit some targets on the outskirts of the city of Baghdad, " it
added.  "The planes bombed a civilian site with sophisticated rockets
which led to the martyrdom and wounding of a number of people.''  The
Iraqi military said the aircraft returned to ''their bases of evil and
aggression in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia'' at 1920pm (1620 GMT). 

War of attrition 

There have been almost daily attacks on Iraqi air defences in northern
and southern no-fly zones in the last two months.  Iraq has allegedly
responded to the repeated air strikes since Operation Desert Fox by
withdrawing its remaining surface-to-air missile systems out of the
no-fly zones and replacing them with less effective anti-aircraft
artillery and even multiple rocket launchers. The Pentagon says that US
and British planes have destroyed about a fifth of Iraq's anti-aircraft
or surface-to-air missile systems since December. 

Iraq Says Civilian Site Hit 
By Waiel Faleh, Associated Press Writer, Wednesday, February 24, 1999;
5:34 p.m. EST

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraqi gunners shot down a missile fired by U.S.
planes Wednesday, while other American missiles hit a civilian site,
killing or wounding several people, Iraqi authorities said.  U.S.
military officials said Air Force and Navy aircraft attacked two Iraqi
surface-to-air missiles sites near Al Iskandariyah, about 30 miles south
of Baghdad, in response to anti-aircraft artillery fire and an Iraqi
aircraft violation of the southern no-fly zone.  President Clinton said
America wound not be intimidated by Iraqi attacks against U.S.
warplanes, calling them an attempt by Saddam Hussein to score ``a
symbolic victory.'' 

Speaking hours after the allied sorties, Clinton also said the United
States had not given up hope of eventually restoring U.N. inspections of
Iraq's weapons arsenal.  The inspections halted after U.S. and British
planes carried out airstrikes on Baghdad and other sites on Dec. 16-19.
The strikes came after U.N. inspectors accused the Iraqi government of
obstructing their search for weapons of mass destruction. 

In a statement Wednesday, the U.S. Central Command said an unspecified
number of F-15E and F/A-18 aircraft carried out the attacks. It did not
say what kind of weapons were used. The sites are at the extreme
northern edge of the southern no-fly zone.  The Iraqi Information
Ministry said air defense batteries shot down a missile fired by the
U.S. planes, but other American missiles ``struck one of our civilian
sites, killing and wounding a number of citizens.''  Neither the Iraqi
armed forces nor the Information Ministry gave precise numbers of
casualties and it was not possible to confirm the reports independently.

U.S. and British planes conduct daily patrols in the no-fly zone that
was established in 1992 to protect rebels from air attack by government
forces. Al-Iskandariyah is the home of a large military industrial
factory, which has been attacked in previous confrontations between Iraq
and the western allies. 

Wednesday, February 24, 1999 Published at 20:14 GMT 
BBC, World: Middle East: Jordan to discuss Iraq trade renewal 

Jordan, which relies heavily on Iraq for its oil and petroleum needs, is
to hold talks on Thursday in Baghdad on the renewal of a long-standing
trade agreement.  A Jordanian delegation, headed by the Trade Minister,
Mohammad Saleh Hurani, has arrived in the Iraqi capital to negotiate a
new agreement following preparatory talks earlier this month.  The
existing agreement is exempt from United Nations sanction imposed on
Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait.

Iraq bans the import of Japanese, Swiss products
Arabic News, Iraq, Politics, 2/24/99

The Iraqi authorities have decided to prevent the importation of
Japanese and Swiss products, in the course of the oil-for-food program.
Earlier the Iraqi authorities banned the imports from the US and
Britain. The Iraqi weekly al-Itihad said on Tuesday that Iraq has listed
33 countries from which it will import its needs according to the
oil-for-food program with the UN. The paper did not mention the reason
which made the Iraqi specialized sides ban the importation of
commodities from Switzerland, which is known for its neutrality, or
those imported from Japan, which does not interfere militarily in
foreign affairs.

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