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Von Sponeck: '... political dialogue is taking place on the back of the Iraqi people.'

Following is another interview in which the frustration of the UN's
humanitarian workers is readily apparent.  Source link:

INTERVIEW-UN sees British concern on Iraq embargo
06:50 a.m. Jul 22, 1999 Eastern 
By Dominic Evans 
LONDON, July 22 (Reuters) - The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for
Iraq said after talks in London he believed Britain was looking for ways to
ease the suffering of ordinary Iraqis after nine years of sanctions. ``I
have a feeling that here in London at the political level there is a sincere
effort to come up with something to reduce suffering as a result of
sanctions,'' Hans von Sponeck said.

Von Sponeck, speaking after briefing a parliamentary committee on the
hardships facing Iraq's population, said that despite greater revenues from
its U.N.-monitored oil-for-food accord, Iraq was still suffering a ``human
tragedy.''   ``I confirmed what British officials are already aware of. The
humanitarian situation simply continues to become more serious,'' he told
Reuters in an interview late on Wednesday.
Almost nine years after sanctions were slapped on Iraq for its August 1990
invasion of Kuwait, Britain and the Netherlands have drafted proposals to
suspend the embargo on Baghdad's exports if it complies with key disarmament
demands.  Russia, China and France say the proposals do not go far enough or
fast enough towards lifting the whole sanctions regime, including imports.
The United States is unlikely to support any draft which makes concessions
to those demands. 

Von Sponeck said that until the political deadlock was broken, Iraqis would
continue to bear the cost. 

``If nothing happens then political dialogue is taking place on the back of
the Iraqi people,'' he said. Iraq blames the sanctions for killing over a
million people and says limited imports allowed by the oil-for-food accord
have made little impact. Humanitarian workers in Iraq say they cannot
confirm those numbers but say the overall picture remains bleak. Von Sponeck
said a detailed U.N. survey of child deaths in Iraq, due to be released next
week, would show ``an increasing trend in the mortality rate of children
under five.'' 

``Every day that passes intensifies shortages, deprivation,'' he said,
robbing a generation of young Iraqis of education and destroying its middle
classes through ``emigration, deprivation or sheer intellectual

``They have decrepit housing, obsolete discarded hardware, empty schools,
libraries that aren't replenished,'' he said. 

``The cyberspace generation has not been born yet in Iraq.'' 

A summer drought and an outbreak of foot and mouth disease worsened the
situation.  Von Sponeck said United Nations officials in Baghdad were
working to ``depoliticise'' food and medical deliveries in Iraq with more
transparent monitoring of supplies. Baghdad regularly trades charges with
Washington and London over responsibility for delays in buying and
delivering goods. He said U.N. monitoring revealed a ``not very satisfactory
picture'' of distribution in Iraq but attempts by some Western diplomats to
pin all the blame on Baghdad were unjustified. 

``We have no evidence there is a conscious withholding of medicines ordered
by the government,'' von Sponeck said, adding that close monitoring in Iraq
should allow a cut in the lengthy bureaucracy which regulates and delays
Baghdad's purchases.  Asked if Iraq, which insists it wants a complete
lifting of the sanctions rather than incremental easing, would accept the
British/Dutch proposal if it won U.N. Security Council approval, von Sponeck
said Baghdad would stick by its tough line in public. 

``At this stage that remains their position,'' he said. ``But once there is
a more definite position from the outside world maybe pragmatism will lead
them to go along with what at this point is unacceptable,'' he said. 

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. 

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