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letters to Peter Hain

To All,
   In late September, we were all asked to write to Peter Hain, to protest about attacks and sanctions on Iraq.
I had expected a flood of responses.   This does not seem to have happened.
However, some of you may like to see the response I got from someone writing p.p. Peter Hain.
I didn't , of course, copy the published letter, but wrote my own.   I didn't keep a copy, and can summarise if anyone wants it.
Copy of letter.
                                                                Foreign and Commonwealth Office
                                                                London SW1A 2AH
                                                                22 October 1999
Mrs. L.K.Fraser
68 Lebanon Gardens
SW18 1RH
Dear Mrs Fraser,
Thankyou for your letter of 26th September to Peter Hain about Iraq.
I have been asked to reply.
In you lettter you refer to "the endless bombing", which I presume is a
reference to UK & USA activity in the No Fly Zones over Iraq.   These were
established after the Gulf War in response to a situation of overwhelming
humanitarian necessity and in support of Security Council Resolution 688, 
which called on the Iraqi regime to stop its persecution of the civilian population.
   Coalition forces have been patrolling the zones, as in the past, to prevent
 Iraqi forces from attacking civilians from the air.   We do not think that there
 can be any doubt that if we abandoned the No Fly Zones, Iraqi repression
 of civilians in these areas would greatly increase.   We are not prepared to
 countenance that.
Since December, Iraqi forces have maintained a sustained campaign to try
 to shoot down our aircraft.  There have been violations by over 215 Iraqi
 aircraft, and Iraqi forces on the ground have shot at or otherwise threatened,
 UK and US aircraft over 500 times.    Our forces have responded in a
 proportionate manner, in self-defence, as is their right under international law.
The risk of civilian casualties is a major consideration whenever we respond
in self defence.   We do not target civilian infrastructure, and all defensive
 action is strictly limited to responses against Iraqi weapons and facilities
 which pose a threat to our forces.   We make every effort to avoid civilian
 casualties, and deeply regret any which have occurred.   But we take every
 precaution to reduce that risk as much as possible.  On several occasions,
 our aircraft have not responded to threats, because they judged the risk of
 such an accident to be too high.    I would also advise you to treat Iraqi claims
 of civilian casualties with the utmost caution.   Iraq has blamed coalition
 forces for casualties on days when our aircraft were not even flying, let alone
 responing to threats.
I should also make it quite clear that our objective is not the overthrow of the
 Iraqi regime.   While Iraq would undoubtedly be better off without Saddam
Hussein, we firmly believe that it must be for the Iraqi people to decide who
 their leaders are.   We have consistendly supported the Iraqi Opposition since
 the end of the Gulf War because we believe that it is important that people hear
 alternative  Iraqi voices, rather than only the propaganda put out by Saddam
 Hussain's regime.    The opposition groups ( many of which happen to be
 based in the UK ) help expose the truth about life under Saddam and reminds
 us that there are those who want a different future for Iraq.   Despite your
 misgivings about the opposition, I would argue that the recent efforts to
 re-vitalise the Iraqi National Congress reflects a real willingness on the part
 of the varioius groups to work together .   And I believe that there is significan
 support  inside Iraq for some of the groups,  particularly the KDP and the PUK
who have de facto control large areas of northern Iraq.
You referred, I think, to the recent UNICEF report on infant and maternal
 mortality rates in Iraq.   Without specific details, I am unable to address
 your point about misquoting, but I find it hard to believe that officials would
 be deliberately misleading.   We welomed the news from UNICEF that mortality
 rates in the northern governates had decreased since 1991, but were
 concerned to learn that rates had reportedly risen elsewhere in Iraq.   This
 reinforces our belief that the Government cares little for its people, and prefers
 to extract political mileage from the humanitarian programme, rather than
 co-operating to maximise its impact.
We remain committed to helping the Iraqi people in the face of such disregard.
 Our most recent initiative is a new Security Council Resolution, which covers
 weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian and Kuwaiti issues.   On the
 humanitarian side, our resolution allows for a range of generous measures
 including removing the ceiling on the amount of oil Iraq is allowed to
 export under the "oil for food" programme and paving the way for foreign
 investment in Iraq's oil infrastructure.   If adopted, the resolution would result in
 a significant increase in the revenue availaable for the provision of humanitarian
 relief.   It also allows for the suspension of restrictions on all Iraqi exports if Iraq
 maintains cooperation and addresses the key remaining disarmament tasks.
   Our resolution now has 9 co-sponsors, and two further promises of support. 
 We hope that the remaining Council members will also move quickly to endorse
 our approach, for the sake of all concerned.
Yours Sincerely
Steven Russell
Middle East Department/

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