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AFP on Von Sponeck, BBC on Annan, ABC on Iraq ... and Mariam Hamza back in hospital

There's a flurry of activity among UN officials concerning Iraq, as noted in
the following stories from AFP, the BBC and ABC.  On a far sadder note,
Mariam Hamza -- symbol and namesake of MP George Galloway's 'Big Ben to
Baghdad' tour (see -- has
suffered a serious relapse and has been hospitalized in Jordan.

I know our thoughts are with her.

Iraqi cancer girl in Jordan hospital after relapse  
AMMAN, Oct. 27 - An Iraqi girl at the centre of a campaign by a British
member of parliament to get U.N. sanctions against Iraq lifted has been
admitted into a hospital in Jordan after suffering a cancer relapse.    
       Mariam Hamza, who was brought from Baghdad to Scotland by MP George
Galloway for treatment from leukaemia in 1997, is now brain damaged and
blind, though her life is not in danger, doctors said. 
       Galloway is leading a pro-Iraqi convoy, dubbed ''Mariam Convoy,''
across parts of Europe and North Africa heading to Jordan and Iraq to push
for an immediate lifting of U.N. sanctions. 
       The convoy, led by a London double-deck bus, is expected to arrive in
the Jordanian port city of Aqaba on Sunday. It would enter Iraq on November
       Iraq says nine years of sanctions have claimed well over one million
lives. A U.N. report in August said mortality among children under five had
double over the past decade. 
       Mariam, six, was moved from a Baghdad hospital to Amman's al-Amal
cancer centre on Tuesday. 
       Dr Kenan Hajjiri told Reuters the move was arranged by Galloway and
his wife who were currently in Egypt en route to Jordan. 
       He said the girl suffered a relapse two months ago and was suffering
from loss of vision in both eyes and seizures -- disorders linked to brain
damage caused by the cancer. 
       He said Mariam was undergoing tests to determine her treatment. 
       ''Hopefully it would not be too late to help her,'' Hajjiri said. He
said her life was not in an immediate danger. 
       Mariam was brought to Scotland for treatment in a blaze of publicity
two years ago. Galloway, who formed a fund to pay for the treatment which
raised tens of thousands of pounds, claimed sanctions were preventing
medicines needed to treat cancer patients from reaching Iraq. 
       The girl was believed to be fully cured after six months of
treatment. She returned home last year. 
 Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.

UN aid official calls for depoliticised debate on Iraq

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 26 (AFP) - The UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Hans
von Sponeck, urged members of the Security Council on Tuesday to stop making
political arguments out of the distribution of food, medicine and other aid.
The Council's sanctions committee had blocked an increasing number of
requests for imports under Iraq's oil-for-food programme, he said, and this
was "a deterrent for the implementation of the humanitarian programme."

Von Sponeck told a news conference that Iraq had spent "every available
dollar" from the programme on a special nutritional project for pregnant
women, new mothers and young children.

While only 469 million dollars worth of medicine had been distributed --
equivalent to 68 percent of the 689 million dollars worth delivered since
the start of the oil-for-food programme in December 1996 -- he said there
were valid reasons for keeping the rest in stock.

Von Sponeck had earlier briefed the Security Council on the consequences of
its decision to allow Iraq to exceed the UN-imposed ceiling of 5.256 billion
dollars on its crude exports for the six months to November 20.

The decision, on October 4, was a response to sharp rises in oil prices.

It did not alter the ceiling, but allowed Iraq to make good a shortfall in
revenue in the two previous 180-day periods when oil prices were low.

"The extra revenue allows us to encourage the Iraq government to do more in
areas of concern to us in the UN and well as the international community,"
Von Sponeck said.

The government had agreed in "long meetings" with UN officials to increase
the caloric value of daily food rations to the average Iraqi from 2,150
calories to 2,200, he said.

It had also allowed the UN access to its own food stocks, he said.

"We now know that there is a food stock available to 75 percent of the
population. The government told us -- and we have no way of verifying this
-- that this translates into an additional 150 calories. So the food basket
looks better."

The government had also spent all 27 million dollars allocated under phases
four and five and the current sixth phase of the programme for
vitamin-reinforced biscuits and therapeutic milk for pregnant women, mothers
and young children, he said.

"There are no more funds available under these three phases," he added.

The programme was put in place in December 1996 to alleviate the impact of
sanctions imposed on Iraq in August 1990 after it invaded Kuwait.

It allows Iraq to export limited amounts of crude oil under UN supervision
and to use two-thirds of the revenues to import essential supplies. 

Each export and import contract must be approved by the council's sanctions


Wednesday, October 27, 1999 Published at 04:31 GMT 05:31 UK 

World: Middle East

Annan criticises Iraq aid delays 

Iraqi hospitals say there are serious shortages of basic medicines 

Delays in delivering goods to Iraq under the oil-for-food programme are
hampering aid work, according to the United Nations' secretary-general. 
The shipment of about $700m of goods is on hold because some member states
are concerned at how Iraq wil use them. 

All contracts have to be approved by the UN Sanctions Committee made up from
the 15-member Security Council. 

BUt UN officials say the delays are hampering the delivery of much needed
humanitarian aid to Iraq. 

And Mr Annan said: "These holds are having an undesirable impact on our
humanitarian activities. 

"I would want to see the UN run a smooth humanitarian operation in Iraq with
a capacity to deliver all that the council has approved." 

His comments were backed by the UN's Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq,
Hans von Sponeck, who said it was time for committee members to remove
politics from the debate and focus on the needs of ordinary Iraqis. 

In an interview with the Washington Post Mr Annan accused the Clinton
administration of "disrupting" humanitarian efforts by blocking the

The United States and other countries have raised objections to Iraq
importing certain goods, which they say could be used for military purposes.

A recent shipment of glass-lined steel pipes was barred amid suspicions that
they could be used in the production of chemical weapons. 

Other imports such as a shipment of musical doorbells have been condemned as
merely frivolous. 

Under the UN programme Iraq is allowed to sell a limited amount of oil to
buy food, medicines and other humanitarian goods, as well as spare parts to
rebuild oil installations. 

Iraqi hospitals say they are continuously short of even the most basic
medical supplies and thousands of adults and children have died of
preventable diseases. 

Reports from the UN children's fund, Unicef, say that the death rate among
Iraq children has more than doubled since international sanctions were
imposed nine years ago. 

It says the country faces an "ongoing humanitarian emergency". 

Baghdad argues such reports prove that sanctions are directly harming its
most vulnerable civilians. 

But the US and its allies say that Iraqi inefficiency and obstructionism are
the real problems and the sanctions are deliberately structured to minimise
their impact on children.


Looking Up: Iraqis Confident That Sanctions Will Soon Weaken
B A G H D A D, Iraq, Oct. 27 - Iraq these days is getting a lot more
sympathy - and looking a lot less isolated.  
ABCNEWS' Sheila MacVicar reports from Baghdad. 
     From Russia's oil minister, to industry executives representing
America's Gulf War allies who are now in search of Iraqi business, and even
at the United Nations, the U.S. policy of pushing sanctions appears to be
losing support.
     U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan chastised the United States on
Tuesday for holding up $700 million worth of contracts for goods that he
said could alleviate the suffering of Iraqis after nearly a decade of
sanctions that were imposed after Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait in
     "These holds are having an undesirable impact on our humanitarian
activities," Annan said. "In some instances, goods which have been shipped
as part of a package have to sit and wait because a part of it has either
been withheld or is not in." 
U.S. More Isolated
The United States wants Saddam to again allow U.N. weapons inspectors into
Iraq, and until he does, it wants him isolated. But the Americans are
finding themselves increasingly lonely in their position.
     "Ten years is a long time, and things cannot but change after those 10
years of suffering and hardships for us," Nizar Hamoon, Iraq's
undersecretary of state for foreign affairs, told ABCNEWS.
     Iraq's infrastructure is crumbling, with bridges and roads in
disrepair. Children are suffering and malnourished - and that brings
sympathy for the Iraqi people, and a feeling it's time to ease up on the
regime there.
     "The government says that this is all due to nine years of
deprivation," said U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator Fabrice von Sponeck.
"Others will have another answer ... and UNICEF and myself and others will
say that whatever the causes are, this is the reality and one must try to
overcome this reality to avoid unnecessary death of children."
     Businesspeople want the right to invest in and export to Iraq, a
country once among the economic leaders of the Arab world.
     "We hope the embargo will be lifted very soon," German businessman Arne
Frantz said recently in Baghdad. 
Life's a Little Better
There is some optimism in Iraq. Many Iraqis say life is a little better now
than in recent years. But most importantly, they say they believe they have
been through the worst, and things can never be as bad again.
     A U.N. program in place since 1996 lets Iraq sell about $5 billion in
oil every six months to pay for food and medicine. It has since been
expanded to include other sectors including water, utilities and spare parts
for the oil industry. The U.N. Security Council decided earlier this month
to increase Baghdad's export cap by more than $3 billion for the current
six-month phase.
     And Iraq, for the first time in a long time, is growing enough fruit
and vegetables to feed its people. 
     Smugglers get around U.N. sanctions and have restocked Iraq's markets
with everything from designer rip-offs to VCRs to $1,800 refrigerators.
     "Even though we have sanctions, things are now OK," said appliance
salesman Abu Alis.
     That may be part of the reason why Iraq's government is feeling very
little pressure to let weapons inspectors - who were removed late last year
as U.S.-led forces mounted attacks on sites that may have been building
banned weapons - back in at all.
     As for the other American demand, that Saddam leave power, many people
in Iraq say their president survived George Bush, and will, without
question, outlast Bill Clinton, as well. 
The American Response 
U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Peter Burleigh on Tuesday
defended the U.S. holds on products bound for Iraq, expressing concern that
Saddam Hussein's government could redirect equipment toward weapons
     "We put contracts on hold for a variety of different reasons including
potential dual use, contracts that are sponsored by questionable firms, and
contracts which are not justified under the humanitarian oil-for-food
program," he said.  
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