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New York Times article: UN Panel report on humanitarian issues

It seems that the UN panel report on humanitarian affairs has already been
delivered, in advance of the deadline of 15 April.  A New York Times
article on it can be found at:

otherwise, the text is as follows:

New York Times
March 31, 1999

U.N. Panel Seeks to Ease Suffering of Iraq's People


UNITED NATIONS -- Concluding that Iraq has gone from "relative affluence
to massive poverty" since economic sanctions were imposed against it after
the 1991 Persian Gulf war, a new report to the Security Council recommends
several steps aimed at alleviating its people's suffering. 

The report was prepared by one of three special panels convened in January
to overcome the political divisions over Iraq on the Security Council and
to help devise a common policy. It did not recommend that sanctions be
lifted, but it did suggest easing them with specific modifications, some
of which the United States said Tuesday it might oppose. 

The four-member panel of senior U.N. officials recommended, for instance,
that oil companies be allowed to invest directly in Iraqi oil fields to
increase Iraq's production, which is currently at 2.5 million barrels of
oil per day. This would enable Iraq to free up funds for food that it now
spends buying new oil equipment and repairing and replacing spare parts in
its oil fields. 

While Iraq is now permitted, under an oil-for-food program, to sell
$5.256-billion worth of oil every six months and to use some of the
proceeds to alleviate suffering caused by the sanctions, it has been
unable to produce that much, given depressed oil prices and the state of
its fields.

In addition, the report suggests that the Security Council authorize
foreign companies to invest in Iraqi export industries, such as
fertilizer, sulfur, and dates, that are unrelated to military production.
In both cases, the report states, the added funds would be monitored by
the United Nations to ensure that they are only used for buying essential

The report also recommends that the council consider reducing temporarily
the amount of money that Iraq pays into a fund that compensates victims of
its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which also comes from the oil proceeds.

"It is the panel's view that under current conditions the humanitarian
outlook will remain bleak and become more serious with time," the report

"Infant mortality rates in Iraq today are among the highest in the world,"
it says. "Low infant birth weight affects at least 23 percent of all
births, chronic malnutrition affects every fourth child under 5 years of
age; only 41 percent of the population have regular access to clean water;
83 percent of all schools need substantial repairs."

The report added that it would take $7 billion just to bring the country's
power base to generate electricity to where it was before the gulf war.

"The gravity of the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people is
indisputable and cannot be overstated," the report concludes.

But it was disputed, only hours after Celso L.N. Amorim, Brazil's
representative, who heads all three panels, gave it to the council.

Western diplomats noted, for instance, that many of the report's
statistics about the situation of the Iraqi people -- such as infant
mortality rates -- relied heavily on data provided by Iraq, much of which
had not been independently confirmed.

While Washington is concerned about alleviating the suffering, said A.
Peter Burleigh, the American representative, "the basic responsibility for
their plight lies with Saddam Hussein," Iraq's leader.

Sanctions were still in place "because Iraq has not disarmed itself of
weapons of mass destruction" or honored other commitments to the United
Nations. Several U.N. agencies contend that Iraq has not spent the money
it has on food and medicine, he said.

The United States wants to ensure that any additional funds for Iraq would
help Iraqis, not their government, he said.

While Burleigh was not willing to single out the proposals that troubled
him, other American officials cited, for example, the report's
recommendation that contributions to the Iraqi victims' compensation fund
be temporarily reduced, or borrowed to enable Iraq to buy more goods for
its people.

Though the proposal was sponsored by Britain, America's closest ally on
the council, one official said that the United States might hesitate to
help one group of victims, the Iraqi people, at the expense of another --
people from many different countries who were working in Iraq when it
invaded Kuwait.

Colin Rowat
Coordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq

King's College                                                 
Cambridge CB2 1ST                       tel: +44 (0)468 056 984
England                                 fax: +44 (0)1223 335 219

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