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Sponeck plans report on aristrikes on Iraq

U.N. Aide Who Quit in Protest Plans
Report on Airstrikes on Iraq

                By Colum Lynch
                Special to The Washington Post
                Thursday, February 17, 2000; Page A23 

                UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 16¡VHans von Sponeck, one of two
                senior U.N. officials who resigned this week to protest
                impact of economic sanctions on Iraq, said today he will
                present a farewell report on the devastation caused by
                and British airstrikes on Iraqi territory.

                The career U.N. official from Germany, who is
responsible for
                overseeing the distribution of humanitarian goods in
                infuriated U.S. and British officials by writing a
similar report on
                airstrikes last year. Von Sponeck's decision to revisit
the issue
                before his March 31 departure was viewed by American
                officials as a parting act of defiance against the
allied powers,
                which have pushed for his removal for months.

                In a telephone interview from his office in Baghdad, von
                Sponeck said he and Jutta Burghardt, a fellow German who
                head of the World Food Program in Iraq, resigned after
                concluding that a U.N. Security Council resolution in
                December provided false hope that the suffering of
                Iraqis would soon be eased.

                "I do not want to be associated with a Band-Aid that is
                inadequate to end the plight of the civilian
population," von
                Sponeck said.

                U.N. officials in New York originally claimed this week
                Burghardt's departure was coincidental. But she told
                in Baghdad today that she was quitting in solidarity
with von
                Sponeck. "I fully support what Mr. von Sponeck is
saying," she

                The United Nations and the Iraqi government are at an
                impasse over the December resolution, which offered to
                suspend some sanctions if Iraq cooperates with a new
                inspection commission. Iraq has refused to allow the
                inspectors to return.

                Meanwhile, U.S. and British jets patrolling "no-fly"
zones in
                northern and southern Iraq have been responding to
                antiaircraft fire with almost daily airstrikes.

                State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said von
                Sponeck's plan to report on the airstrikes underscores
                tendency to exceed his authority and to rely on Iraqi
                propaganda. "He has a habit of reporting Iraqi claims of
                casualties from the air attacks without having the
ability to
                verify those claims," Rubin said.

                While conceding that he relied heavily on Iraqi sources
for his
                previous report, von Sponeck said U.N. staff workers
                witnessed 23 of the 99 airstrikes investigated by his
office. He
                said he personally witnessed three attacks.

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