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from the Washington Post

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 ; A23 

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

The career U.N. official from Germany, who is responsible for overseeing
the distribution of humanitarian goods in Iraq, 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 is 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 ordinary 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 that Burghardt's
departure was coincidental. But she told reporters in Baghdad today that
she was quitting in solidarity with von Sponeck. "I fully support what Mr.
von Sponeck is saying," she said.

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 arms 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

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said von Sponeck's plan to
report on the airstrikes underscores his 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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