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If anyone can document the official position of the Arab League Foreign Ministers on sanctions, would they please post? I believe they've called for economic sanctions to end, but it's not made clear in what follows: a recap of the year's fitful progress. --- http://www.ahram.org.eg/weekly/2000/463/re4.htm Al-Ahram Weekly Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 6 - 12 January 2000 Issue No. 463 Just another year of suffering? By Salah Hemeid As nations around the world celebrated the advent of the new millennium, Iraqis marked the historic day by going over the ins and outs of a year which had brought them plenty by way of worries, but few concrete achievements. Building on the previous month's military confrontation with the United States over UN weapons inspectors, the Iraqi government started 1999 by an intensive political campaign to rally Arab support for its demands that the embargo on the country be lifted and Iraq be brought back to the Arab fold. However an emergency Arab League ministerial conference in Cairo failed to give such a pledge and instead called on Iraq to comply with UN resolutions against it. Iraq's endeavour ended in political disaster when Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Said Al-Sahhaf stormed out of the meeting, angrily accusing Kuwait and Saudi Arabia of ganging up against Iraq to torpedo a resolution that would have given the country the support it was seeking. Losing a similar opportunity elsewhere to build relations with China, France and Russia, Baghdad's efforts to lift the sanctions went back to square one. In February, unidentified assailants killed the Shi'ite religious leader Ayatollah Mohamed Sadiq Al-Sadr and his two sons near the holy city of Najaf. Although the Iraqi government denied any responsibility for the murder of the outspoken clerical figure, the assassination sparked a wave of unrest in several Shi'ite dominated areas in Baghdad and southern Iraq. It was the first time since the end of the Gulf War that Shi'ites had launched violent protests against the regime, and dozens of people were reported killed in clashes with government troops. In June, a pickup truck loaded with explosives was detonated alongside a minibus carrying members of the Iranian exiled group the Mujahedin Khalq from Baghdad to their camp on the Iranian border. The cross-border attacks, tactics used by the two neighbouring countries through opposition groups that both host, again underscored their fragile relations and perhaps a joint conviction that time has not yet healed the wounds of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. A report released in August by the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) revealed in the heavily populated areas of central and southern Iraq, children under five were dying at more than twice the rate recorded 10 years previously. Carol Belamy, UNICEF's executive director, blamed both UN economic sanctions and the Iraqi government for the horrifying health conditions of Iraqi children. Yet, on the ninth anniversary of the UN sanctions, it seemed there was little hope of easing the plight of ordinary Iraqis, to which the oil-for-food programme that had been designed to alleviate the suffering of the 22 million-strong population of Iraq has made little difference. In a tragic incident in August US warplanes patrolling the southern no-fly zone bombed a small town killing 12 people from one family. The raid highlighted conflicts over the two no-fly zones, declared by the United States and Britain over the country to deter the Iraqi regime from using its forces against its opponents. Critics, however, say the policy has been ineffective in weakening Saddam's grip on these areas or in posing a threat to his regime. In September, the US State Department released a report accusing Iraq of being "dangerous and defiant" since it had neither disarmed nor demonstrated remorse for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The report was widely seen as part of US anti-Saddam propaganda rather than a part of a genuine policy to help bring about a new regime as claimed by its authors. In October, reports in the Arab press suggested that Saddam had asked King Abdullah II of Jordan to convey a message to the Clinton administration in which he expressed his willingness to end the conflict between the two countries. Iraq, which has always called for dialogue with the United States, did not deny the report, saying it wanted to explain certain points. The US-backed Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, ended a meeting in New York in November, creating further divisions in the ranks of the exiled Iraqi opposition. The three-day gathering was boycotted by key opposition forces, which cast doubts on American plans and accused Washington of manipulating the opposition and interfering in their affairs. In December, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling on Iraq to co-operate with a new disarmament agency to replace UNSCOM in exchange for a suspension of the sanctions. Although Iraq has rejected the new resolution, its final position will be tested soon when the Council sends the new inspectors to resume operations in Iraq. The test will certainly determine the type of relations Iraq adopts towards the United Nations and more significantly towards US policy in future. Also in December, Saddam decorated his second son Odai for bravery amid signs that the Iraqi leader is shifting more power to his younger son, Qusai, who has reportedly been taking an increasing influential role in the country since the assassination attempt on his elder brother in 1996. In charge of the elite Republican Guard units, as well as the country's intelligence and the security forces, Qusai is Iraq's strong man and the most powerful candidate to succeed his father. For Iraqis, 1999 was another year of suffering, fear and bitterness, locked in the same trap that the United States has fashioned to contain their leader. Whether the year 2000 will bring hope and change remains an open question; however when the new year sun shone for the first time last Saturday the more practical question on many Iraqi minds was whether there would be enough food for the Ramadan Iftar that night, and whether the electricity would again be cut while children were preparing for the mid-year exams to start the next day. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi