The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Rebuttal to George Robertson's comments

The following is the content of a press release CASI put out this evening
which you might be interested to read. Thanks to Glen for putting it
together! -  seb


Press Information -- Iraq

On Thursday, 4 March 1999, the Defence Secretary George Robertson sought
on Radio 4's Today Programme to blame the Government of Iraq alone for the
suffering of the Iraqi people, by pointing to reports that half the
medicine imported into Iraq under the oil-for-food deal remains in
government warehouses. This attribution of blame is only in part accurate,
and the following information may be worth reading before Mr Robertson's
claims are repeated as fact:

The claim that $275 million worth of medicine remains in the warehouses of
Kimadia, the state-owned drug company, is made in the most recent 90-day
report of Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General (see references
below). However, the Secretary-General's stated reasons for this
accumulation do not always tally with Mr Robertson's claims. In
particular, Annan details how there is a lack of transport for moving the
medical supplies to health centres, and there is a severe shortage of
equipment for loading and unloading supplies. These items, together with
spare parts for existing machinery, are banned from import under the
sanctions regime, and are not part of oil-for-food. For example, the
Secretary-General describes the problems Iraq faces in dealing with the
sanitation equipment bought under the oil-for-food scheme:

'The General Establishment for Water and Sewage (GEWS) central warehouse
is capable of unloading only one truck per day, and United Nations
observers report that, with the recently increased number of in-country
arrivals, trucks are lined up waiting to unload their freight. The recent
increase in arrivals has increased the pressure on storage facilities and
reduced handling efficiency, and this has contributed to delays in
conveying supplies to treatment sites.' (para.38; see also para. 31).

For this reason, the Secretary-General stresses that it is 'important for
the Security Council Committee to acknowledge that a humanitarian
programme of such magnitude requires a commensurate level of transport,
communications and material-handling equipment and to be ready to act
favourably on requests for essential logistic support.' (para.106). At
present, the UK government shows no sign of taking up the
Secretary-General's important recommendation.

This point is borne out in reports by heads of UN programmes in Iraq.
Benon V. Sevan, Executive Director of the UN Office of the Iraq Programme,
in his statement to the Security Council on 25 February 1999, noted that:
'Any humanitarian programme, on whatever scale and regardless of whether
comprised of emergency or rehabilitation projects, necessarily requires
supporting services. These range from basic transport and logistics to the
design and execution of a particular project. Each aspect requires
adequate planning, staffing and finance. Regrettably few of these
essential prerequisites have been made available in an efficient and
timely manner and as resolution 986 (1995) concentrates overwhelmingly on
the provision of imported commodities, it has not been able to guarantee
the optimum utilisation of goods supplied under the programme. I welcome
the 661 Committee's recognition that major engineering projects in the oil
and electricity sectors require the funding of service arrangements. This
is a realistic response to a very grave situation and the unavailability,
locally, of all necessary technical expertise and resources. However, many
smaller projects and activities seeking to utilise supplies delivered
under the programme also require similar assistance. A greater measure of
flexibility by all concerned would be welcome and the Panel on
Humanitarian Issues may wish to review the issues involved.'

Furthermore, Dr. Habib Rejeb, the head of the World Health Organization
(WHO) in Baghdad, stated, in November 1998, that: 'There is no handling
equipment, so storage space is reduced. There are no forklifts, no
refrigeration trucks to distribute to the governorates, and the
governorates don't have cash to pick up the medicines. The governorates
are informed to come and pick up medicines on a certain date of the month
and they don't come because they don't have transport. And this filters
down: The health centers can't come to the centers in the governorates to
pick up the medicines. They have to distribute a large quantity of drugs
and they don't have computers.'


Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 6 of Security
Council Resolution 1210 (1998). S/1999/187. 22 February 1999

Introductory statement by Benon V. Sevan, Executive Director of the Iraq
Programme, at the informal consultations of the Security Council, on 25
February 1999

Habib Rejeb, head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Baghdad,
interview with Bert Sacks, November 1998

This press information comes from the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Further comment can be obtained from Glen Rangwala on 01223 462187 or The Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq can be contacted
via Seb Wills on 01223 507858, email

This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To be removed/added, email, NOT the
whole list. Archived at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]