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write letters to WP and NYT

The following articles appear in today's Washington Post and New York
Times. Letters to the Post's
editor can be e-mailed at the Post's web-site (the web-site doesn't
appear to list the e-mail address). Letters to the NYT's editor should be
mailed to

U.N. Chief Extends Controversial Humanitarian Official's Term in Iraq
By Colum Lynch
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, November 3, 1999; Page A28 

U.S. officials have accused the official, Hans von Sponeck, of siding with
Iraq in a propaganda battle over who is to blame for the suffering of the
Iraqi people: the West, for imposing harsh economic sanctions, or Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein, for failing to comply with the terms for lifting
those sanctions.

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said von Sponeck, a career U.N.
official from Germany, has exceeded his authority by publicly criticizing
the Security Council's sanctions policy and by investigating civilian
casualties from U.S.-British bombing raids in Iraq's "no fly" zones.

Rubin also charged that von Sponeck allowed the Iraqi government to fill
warehouses with food and medicine that should have been distributed to the
Iraqi people under the terms of the U.N.'s "oil for food" program, which
allows Iraq to sell $5.2 billion of oil every six months to meet
humanitarian needs.

"We do not have confidence in his leadership of this effort," Rubin said.
"Mr. von Sponeck has undermined the role of the humanitarian coordinator
in Iraq."

Fred Eckhard, Annan's chief spokesman, said the secretary-general believes
that anyone serving in such a sensitive job inevitably will offend the
United States, Britain or other countries. Eckhard said von Sponeck's
predecessor, Denis J. Halliday of Ireland, ran afoul of the United States
and his eventual successor probably will, too.

"It kind of comes with the territory," Eckhard said.

Annan nevertheless has asked von Sponeck to meet with U.S. and British
officials to "clear up any misunderstanding that might have arisen,"
Eckhard said, adding that the U.N. chief "wants von Sponeck to continue in
this job."

Rubin's unusually sharp public criticism of von Sponeck comes as the
United States and Britain continue to wrestle with Russia, France and
other countries that favor lifting the economic sanctions if U.N. weapons
inspectors are allowed to return to Iraq.

Last week, Washington and London rejected a recommendation by the
secretary general to allow Iraq to spend an additional $300 million on
repairs to oil production facilities. And on Monday, Undersecretary of
State Thomas Pickering pledged U.S. support for Iraqi opposition leaders
seeking to topple Saddam Hussein.

Annan, meanwhile, has criticized the United States and Britain for
blocking Iraqi requests to import more than $700 million in various goods
under the oil-for-food program. Washington is responsible for holding up
the delivery of more than 580 items, while Britain is holding up 82 items. 

) Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company


New York Times 
November 3, 1999

Despite U.S. Protests, U.N. Relief Aide in Baghdad Is to Stay On

UNITED NATIONS -- Secretary General Kofi Annan has asked the United
relief coordinator for Iraq to stay for another year, despite pressure
from the United States and Britain to dismiss him. 

The United States and Britain have said the official, Hans von Sponeck of
Germany, has exceeded his role in his criticism of the economic sanctions
against Baghdad. 

Fred Eckhard, the United Nations spokesman, recalled that there were
similar complaints about Sponeck's predecessor, Denis Halliday, adding,
"It kind of comes with the territory of his job." 

Halliday, an Irishman, resigned last year to protest what he said was the
damage inflicted on ordinary Iraqis by the sanctions, which he said were
incompatible with the United Nations Charter. Halliday contended that
6,000 Iraqi children were dying every month because of sanctions imposed
on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990. 

Sponeck joined the United Nations Development Program in 1968. He worked
in Ghana, Turkey, Botswana, Pakistan and India before becoming director of
European affairs in the program's office in Geneva. He was appointed the
United Nations relief coordinator in Iraq in October 1998. 

The post of coordinator was established in October 1997 to administer
programs that permit Iraq, despite the sanctions, to sell $5 billion worth
of oil every six months to buy food, medicine and other necessities. 

The United States and its allies maintain that the sanctions, imposed by
the Security Council, cannot be lifted until Iraq shows that it has
destroyed its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the means of
making new ones. The United States has accused President Saddam Hussein of
manipulating the suffering of Iraqis to get sanctions lifted. 

It is rare for the United States to criticize a United Nations official by
name. But diplomats said the chief American delegate to the United
Nations, Richard C. Holbrooke, and the Under Secretary of State for
Political Affairs, Thomas R. Pickering, have expressed concern to Annan
about Sponeck. They are reported to have questioned his objectivity, as
well as his ability to deliver food and medicine to the intended Iraqi

Sponeck is in Baghdad and could not be reached. 

James P. Rubin, the State Department spokesman, said Tuesday that the
United States had no confidence in Sponeck's ability to administer the
oil-for-food program objectively. 

Rubin said Sponeck allowed the Iraqi Government to stockpile large
quantities of supplies urgently needed by the Iraqi people and refused to
confront the authorities about distributing the goods. 

Briefing reporters at the United Nations last Tuesday, Sponeck said it was
important to take concerns about human welfare out of the mainstream of
political discussion. "One should try to de-link the humanitarian
discussion from the disarmament discussion," he said. 

But Rubin said Sponeck, as United Nations coordinator of the oil-for-food
program, "has no business advocating changes to a sanctions regime that
the Security Council has imposed and reaffirmed." 

Eckhard responded that the relief coordinator in Iraq must be concerned
about the people he is there to serve. "The fact that the humanitarian
issue in Iraq becomes a political football, I think, is obvious to
anyone," Eckhard said. "So it becomes a very fine line for any
humanitarian coordinator to walk." 






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