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Iraq Suffering "Intellectual Embargo" Under Sanctions: Sponeck

Iraq suffering "intellectual embargo" under sanctions:  von Sponeck

Wednesday, 01-Mar-2000 5:50PM      

UNITED NATIONS, March 1 (AFP) - Speaking with the permission of UN
Secretary General Kofi Annan, the outgoing humanitarian coordinator in
Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, said Wednesday that sanctions had led to "an
intellectual embargo" on that country. 

Education has been the "prime victim" of an inadequate effort to reduce
the harsh effect of UN sanctions on the Iraqi population, he told a news

Von Sponeck, who has resigned in protest over the continued sanctions, was
allowed to meet the press on condition that he speak as a United Nations
official and keep his personal opinions to himself. 

Sitting beside Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, von Sponeck declined to
answer certain questions including some about the reasons why he asked on
February 13 to be relieved of his post. 

Von Sponeck said that the oil-for-food programme, which he will continue
to administer until March 31, received 2.9 billion dollars a year,
equivalent to 252 dollars for each of Iraq's 22 million people. 

"That puts Iraq into the category of least developed countries," in terms
of per capita income in the current context, he said. 

"Education is the key concern that I have," he said, adding that less than
four percent of the funds under the programme reached education, he said. 

Holding up photographs of schoolchildren sitting on the floor of bare
classrooms, von Sponeck declared, "Here is the new generation of Iraqis
prepared for leadership." 

It was not propaganda but fact that the sanctions which the Security
Council imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990 had led to "an
intellectual embargo," he said. 

He said he had "anecdotal evidence" that parents sent their children out
in the morning and refused to allow them to return home until they had
earned one and a half dollars for the day. 

"On every street corner you can see children who should be in school
selling their little items," he said. 

Put into place in 1996, the oil-for-food programme permits Iraq to sell
crude oil under UN supervision and to use part of the revenue to import
food, medicine and other essentials. The rest of the income goes to
compensate victims of the invasion and to the administration costs of the
oil-for-food programme. 

The United States has condemned von Sponeck's criticism of the programme
and welcomed his resignation with unconcealed glee. 

German-born Von Sponeck, a UN official for 32 years, said his decision had
been the difficult and the result of an effort to reconcile his heart and
his head. 

"I had never resigned in my life. It was a new experience for me," he

Asked whether he had come under pressure to quit, he replied "I think I
got the message" from certain unidentified governments. 

On Tuesday, the US State Department spokesman James Rubin accused the
Iraqi government of illegally selling refined oil to finance imports of
large amounts of alcohol and gold-plated accessories for President Saddam
Hussein's palaces. 

Asked whether the Iraqi authorities could be held partly responsible for
the inefficiencies of the oil-for-food programme, von Sponeck said, "We
have no evidence that funds available under the programme were diverted to
other purposes." 

Moreover, he said, 91.7 percent of what came into Iraq under UN
supervision had been distributed to end-users. 

In the case of medical supplies, 28 percent was stockpiled, but that broke
down into 14 percent held in buffer stocks and 14 percent that could not
be distributed because it was sub-standard or still awaiting quality
controls, he said. 

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