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News for 28 February to 6 March, 2000 Sources: Guardian, Associated Press, Reuters, www.ArabicNews.com Thanks to Seb Wills for supplying the Guardian article. LOTS OF IMPORTANT NEWS THIS WEEK! Sorry for the delay which was due to my own limitations, internet problems, an increase in news and a decrease in my available time! Headlines * Foreign office bans plane loaded with medicine from flying to Iraq. (from the Guardian) * Iraqi Hajj pilgrims defy sanctions by flying to Saudi Arabia. * Devestating report by Red Cross on effects of sanctions in Iraq. * An interview with Von Sponeck. * An interview with Hans Blix. * At least 2 bombing raids by US/UK airforces in the last week. * Arab League Chief makes concilliatory overtures to Iraq. * An interesting article on Kuwait's massive increases in military expenditure. * Iraq reiterates its stance on UNMOVIC, saying it won't allow inspectors back in. * Iraq says it will continue oil sales once $5.26 billion (SCR limit) hit. * Controversial Canadian Company, Talisman Energy (of Sudan notoriety) investigating doing business in Iraq. --------------------------------- http://www.newsunlimited.co.uk/international/s tory/0,3604,143655,00.html >From the Gaurdian: Foreign office bans Galloway's flight to Iraq Ewen MacAskill, Diplomatic Editor Monday March 6, 2000 The foreign office unexpectedly stepped in yesterday to ground a flight carrying medical supplies to Iraq. The flight, organised by the Labour MP George Galloway and scheduled for next Saturday, would have been the first between London and Baghdad since the Gulf war in 1991. The foreign office yesterday dismissed the mission as a "Saddam Hussein publicity stunt" and refused to refer the case to the UN sanctions committee for the approval needed for the flight to go ahead. International sanctions have been in place against Iraq since the war, in spite of widespread concern that the sanctions are not achieving any political ends but are causing suffering among civilians. The US and Britain are adamant that the sanctions will not be lifted until the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, allows in weapons inspectors. Mr Galloway, who is opposed to the sanctions, is proposing to take the foreign office to the high court over the ban, claiming that there are no legal grounds on which to prevent British citizens travelling to Iraq. Relatively amicable discussions between the foreign office and Mr Galloway had been continuing for weeks. But a hitch developed at the end of last week when the foreign office objected to the fact that there would be 207 passengers on the plane, arguing that this figure was incompatible with a humanitarian mission and claiming it would be in breach of the sanctions. The foreign office has told Mr Galloway to get the numbers down to about 20 or 30, an ultimatum he regards as impossible. He said yesterday: "On the face of it, it is the most appalling breach of good faith I have ever encountered in parliament in 13 years." Having met with an initially positive response from the foreign office, Mr Galloway suspects a hidden hand - either from the US or from another part of Whitehall - behind the sudden decision. The Iraqi government wins either way. If the flight had gone ahead, it would have been a propaganda coup for President Saddam. A banned flight provides equally good publicity. The foreign office says the sanctions are flexible enough to allow Iraq to sell enough oil to permit a reasonable standard of living. If civilians are suffering, the department says President Saddam's administration is to blame. Accompanying Mr Galloway on the flight were to have been Dennis Halliday, a UN official who had been based in Baghdad and who resigned in protest at impact of sanctions on the civilian population, and John Nicol, one of two RAF crew captured by the Iraqis during the Gulf war, who also opposes sanctions. Also on the passenger list were 20 journalists, 30 people from the United Arab Emirates, including the crown prince of Dubai, representatives of non-governmental agencies, Iraqi expatriates and anti-sanctions campaigners. The plane, supplied by the UAE, had been due to fly from Heathrow to Baghdad via Dubai, with £150,000 worth of medical supplies on board. An acrimonious exchange of letters took place over the weekend between Mr Galloway and the foreign office minister, Peter Hain. The two, both on the left of the party, had been relatively friendly for years. A foreign office source said yesterday: "If this was a genuine mercy mission, as opposed to a Saddam Hussein publicity stunt, then nine-tenths of the plane would be filled with medical and other humanitarian supplies. Instead, we have the entire cabin filled with hangers-on when all the space could be used for equipment to help the people of Iraq." He added: "We will not put it forward to the sanctions committee. We would have no credibility if we did." In a letter to Mr Galloway, Mr Hain said: "I was very keen to support a humanitarian mission to Iraq. I was especially keen that all the medical supplies you have obtained reach Baghdad. I will ensure that they do so whether or not your flight is given the necessary clearance." The medical supplies could be ferried through the UN. Mr Hain added: "A humanitarian flight should be just that, not an excuse for all sorts of people to fly into Iraq and breach international sanctions." Mr Galloway said that, if he was forced to write off the flight, he would look at alternatives, such as taking the medical supplies on a scheduled flight to Dubai and then continuing by ferry to Iraq. But in that case the number of people able to accompany him would fall to around a dozen. He said yesterday the ban would be badly received in the Arab world and accused the government of "pretending to go along with the project and then attempting to ground it on spurious grounds". ----------------------------------- Sunday March 5 9:30 AM ET Iraqi Hajj Pilgrims Defy Sanctions BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - In defiance of U.N. sanctions, Iraq's only transport plane departed Sunday - bound for Saudi Arabia with 121 hajj pilgrims aboard. It was the fourth such flight in the last five days and the passengers were all women, sick or elderly who would not have been able to make the trip overland, the official Iraqi News Agency reported. The Iraqi Airways plane, the single transport aircraft in its sanctions-crippled fleet, left Baghdad's al-Rashid military air base Sunday morning, the news agency said. The hajj, which begins in mid-March, is a ritual required of every able-bodied Muslim at least once in a lifetime. Sanctions imposed on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait ban air travel to and from the country. A U.N. Security Council resolution passed in December exempted pilgrimage flights from the embargo, but said Iraq must get permission from the U.N. sanctions committee in New York beforehand. Iraqi Airways officials have said the government refuses to request permission for the flights because Iraq doesn't want to be seen as recognizing the December resolution. Most of Iraq's 7,000 pilgrims reach Saudi Arabia by road after a more than 48-hour drive from Baghdad. Those who flew will have to find their own way back, as the official airways has not flown pilgrims home in the past two years. Airways officials would not say if more hajj flights were planned. ------------------------- Sunday March 5, 6:16 am Eastern Time Kuwait reported close to $1.2bln arms deal By Ashraf Fouad KUWAIT, March 5 (Reuters) - A leading Kuwaiti opposition politician said on Sunday his country was close to signing an arms deal defence experts say is worth $1.2 billion as part of a programme to re-equip the military after the 1991 Gulf War. The deal, which has been delayed in recent months, is for a command and control system sought mainly by major British and U.S. defence firms. Liberal MP Abdullah al-Naibari said he had presented Defence Minister Sheikh Salem Sabah al- Salem al-Sabah with an 11point question on the deal. ``I have learned that the Defence Ministry is in the contractual process to buy a command and control system for the Armed Forces,'' Naibari said in his parliamentary question sent to Reuters on Sunday. Similar questions and opposition campaigns in the elected parliament have in the past led to the freezing of defence deals with Western states and long delays. The latest casualty was a controversial deal for U.S. Paladin howitzer guns worth about $600 million which was frozen last year after strong parliamentary objections. Defence experts said that the latest proposed deal for the command and control system involved three main bidders: a British Aerospace PLC (quote from Yahoo! UK & Ireland: BA.L)Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT - news) consortium, a Raytheon CO. (NYSE:RTNa - news)-led consortium and a GEC/Marconi-Litton Data Systems group. The latter was apparently disqualified for failing to meet a deadline on presenting some documents, Western defence sources said. This was not officially confirmed. ``I think that now only the first two are the ones that stand a chance,'' said one Western source familiar with the talks. Other Western firms are linked to the consortia. As part of a wider Gulf Arab plan to form an integrated region-wide defence shield, Kuwait has been studying the purchase of the command, control, communications, computer and intelligence (C4I) system -- worth about $1.2 billion -over a three phase plan. Defence experts have told Reuters the first phase is worth around $350 million. Naibari asked the defence minister for full details on bidders, specifications, recommendations by expert committees on the equipment on offer, copies of official exchanges with suppliers, price quotations and if the plan was presented for review by the independent watchdog body the Audit Bureau. Without elaborating, an official Kuwaiti defence source had told Reuters that the deal could face yet another delay for ``technical reasons.'' Kuwait launched a 12-billion-dollar arms purchase programme to rebuild and re-equip its small military following Iraq's 1990 invasion and the 1991 Gulf War that drove Iraqi troops out. -------------------- Al-Sahaf: Sanctions must be lifted off Baghdad for the Gulf's stability Iraq, Politics, 3/6/2000 Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Said al-Sahaf asserted that there will be neither security nor stability in the Gulf without lifting up the sanctions from Iraq, accusing USA of practicing a policy of collective extermination toward the Iraqi people and that it wants to turn Iraq into a US colony, which will never happen. In press statements today al-Sahaf said Iraq welcomes any efforts to reform political relations among the Arab states on the right basis that will lead to achieving solidarity and creating a constructive atmosphere to overcome the hardships through which it passes. He added, "We have been suffering since August, 1991 from daily aggression by the US and the British forces more specific to what are called 'no-fly zones.'" -------------------- http://www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/Day/000202/2000020221.html A message from AL chief to Saddam Hussein Iraq, Politics, 2/2/2000 Arab League Secretary General Esmat Abdul Meguid has sent a message to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, delivered to the Iraqi representative at the AL, Sultan al-Shawi, who refused to disclose content of the message. Following the meeting with the AL chief, al-Shawi said his country "is ready to make a general and comprehensive dialogue to deal with suspended issues in the Gulf region." He reserved on the set condition that Baghdad has to apologize for its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 as a step in preparing for convening a plenary Arab summit. Al-Shawi said that Iraq has given all it can on the Arab and international levels. He stressed that his country "carried out all UN security council resolutions pertaining to the invasion (of Kuwait)." He said the Arab states "are presumed to start taking steps to dismantle the siege imposed on Iraq." ----------------------------------------------- Thursday March 2 6:49 PM ET Iraq Spurns New U.N. Arms Inspector By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press Writer UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Iraq on Thursday spurned calls by the chief U.N. weapons inspector to allow arms searches to resume after more than a year, saying Baghdad had no plans to cooperate with a U.N. policy that doesn't call for sanctions to be lifted. ``The issue is not whether the inspectors go to Iraq or not,'' Iraqi Ambassador Saeed Hasan said in an interview. ``The real issue is the thousands of Iraqis dying every day. The issue is the aggression Iraq is subject to since 1991.'' Iraq contends that sanctions imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait have led to thousands of Iraqi deaths - a claim disputed by the United States, which blames Iraq's President Saddam Hussein. Hasan was responding to the new chief U.N. weapons inspector for Iraq, Hans Blix, who told a press conference on Wednesday that Iraq should allow inspections to prove its contention that it has destroyed all of its weapons of mass destruction. Blix started work Wednesday as executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission. The Security Council created the agency in December to replace the U.N. Special Commission, which had been working since 1991 to oversee the destruction of Iraq's proscribed weapons. U.N. arms experts left Iraq in December 1998 ahead of U.S. and British airstrikes, launched to punish Iraq for failing to cooperate with the inspectors. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan has said Baghdad would not accept new U.N. weapons inspectors, but other Iraqi officials have left open the possibility for compromise if the Security Council makes some unspecified changes in its new Iraq policy. Hasan said Baghdad was ready to talk to the Security Council if it is willing to take into account in its resolutions Iraq's concerns about sanctions and the continued U.S. airstrikes in the no-fly zones over Iraq - including one on Thursday. ``If the council wants a dialogue with Iraq, to listen to Iraq, to deal with Iraq's legitimate concerns, we are ready to do that,'' Hasan said. But he said there was currently a stalemate between the two sides because the U.N. resolution creating the new inspection agency didn't address those concerns and Iraq's call for sanctions to be lifted. ``Why should we cooperate with the resolution when it doesn't render justice to Iraq?'' he asked. -------------------------------------- Thursday March 2, 5:24 pm Eastern Time Iraq features high on Talisman Energy shopping list By Jeffrey Jones NEW YORK, March 2 (Reuters) - Talisman Energy Inc.(Toronto:TLM.TO - news), mired in controversy over its operations in war-torn Sudan, is scouting for new oil prospects throughout the Middle East, including Iraq, target of United Nations sanctions since the end of the Gulf War, Talisman's chief executive said Thursday. Stung by international criticism over the Sudan project, however, the Canadian oil firm will not sign any Iraqi oil deal until U.N. sanctions are lifted, Talisman's Jim Buckee said. The company is also evaluating potential projects in Syria, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and even Iran, a country that is also the target of U.S. sanctions, Buckee told reporters after giving a speech to a conference for institutional investors. ``As the world unfolds, and hopefully becomes a place of more easy access, we will put our expertise to work and capital to work in those countries,'' said the head of Canada's biggest international oil producer. ``(But) we are very sensitive to keeping on-side with the U.S. and the United Nations,'' Buckee said. Talisman last month dodged a Canadian threat of sanctions over its 25-percent stake in the huge oil project in southern Sudan, where a civil war pitting the Islamist government against Christian and Animist rebels has raged for 17 years. Critics of the project, including various human rights groups as well as the United States, have charged that the Sudanese government would use the oil money to fuel the war. Washington has sanctioned Sudan and Iran, accusing them of being among countries sponsoring international terrorism. Buckee has said that wealth generated by the Sudan project will only help the situation in the poor African country. Iraq, under the U.N. sanctions, is allowed to export limited amounts of oil in exchange for food and medical supplies. However, industry analysts have said companies from around the world have been examining oil projects there, to be ready with deals once the U.N. lifts economic sanctions. Another Canadian oil company, Ranger Oil Ltd. (Toronto:RGO.TO - news), made headlines two years ago by signing a deal for a $250- million post-sanctions development in Iraq. ``In terms of resource potential, Iraq is just in a class of its own -- it's a factor of 10 times the next (country),'' Buckee said. ``So we're just looking and waiting.'' He cautioned, however, that Iraq was just one Middle East country on Talisman's expanding radar screen. Today, it also operates in Canada, the North Sea, Indonesia and Algeria. Martin Molyneaux, analyst with FirstEnergy Capital Corp., the Calgary-based brokerage hosting the conference in New York this week, said Talisman's interest in Iraq made sense. ``Every major oil producer in the world has got extensive project reviews on Iraq -- you have to. It's just so big and so overlooked for decades, you just have to make sure you're prepared for when, one day, it comes back to being a politically acceptable area to venture,'' Molyneaux said. For now, Sudan remains a political flashpoint for Talisman, and the uncertainty has weighed on its stock despite its strong outlook for production growth from the project and other operating areas amid surging oil prices. Last week, Canadian nongovernmental organizations that had been working with Talisman on devising a human rights monitoring mechanism for Sudan, abruptly broke off talks, charging the company was not offering sufficient resources. Talisman vice-president Jacqueline Sheppard said the company would still implement monitoring with a third party under an international code of ethics, and challenged the NGOs, led by the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, to resume negotiations. Talisman shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange were off C$1.20 to C$39.50 on Thursday. ($1=$1.46 Canadian) ---------------------------- Thursday March 2 11:10 AM ET Western Aircraft Bomb Iraqi Forces BERLIN (Reuters) - The U.S. military said Western planes patrolling a no-fly zone over northern Iraq bombed air defenses Thursday after coming under fire, continuing a regular series of exchanges in the area. The Stuttgart, Germany-based U.S. European Command said in a statement the incident happened over an Iraqi defense site northwest of the town of Mosul. It gave no details of casualties but said all aircraft involved left the area safely. The incident was the 16th such exchange this year. ... --------------- Thursday March 2 7:53 AM ET Iraq Criticizes U.N. Plan to Help Iraqi Pilgrims DUBAI (Reuters) - Iraq hinted Thursday it might reject a United Nations plan to provide funds for poorer Iraqis to perform this month's Muslim haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. ``Iraqi pilgrims have started to leave Iraq...we have settled this matter and do not accept a guardianship to be forced on us. The framework proposed by some members of the Security Council is one which violates Iraq's sovereignty,'' Iraqi Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Nabil Najim told reporters in Dubai. Council members agreed Wednesday on a plan to distribute $250 in cash and $1,750 in traveler's checks drawn out of Baghdad's oil revenue account to each of up to 22,000 Iraqis. The plan would ensure that checks be used for the haj and no other expenses. Some 7,000 pilgrims are expected to go to Mecca from Iraq. Baghdad flew 117 Muslim pilgrims to the Saudi kingdom on Wednesday aboard a transport plane that violated a U.N. air embargo. The council has said it will allow Iraq to fly planes to Saudi Arabia for the haj but only if they obtain prior permission. Iraq's U.N. Ambassador, Saeed Hasan, said a notification was unnecessary because Baghdad did not recognize a December council resolution that demands the return of U.N. arms inspectors to Baghdad in return for an eventual easing of sanctions imposed when Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait in 1990. ``We refuse to work with any decision which does not stipulate, ahead of time, the lifting of sanctions,'' said Najim, who is in the United Arab Emirates to open Iraq's exhibit at a month-long shopping festival in Dubai. ``Iraq insists that there is no substitute for lifting sanctions...It is not possible that for 10 years a nation of 23 million is held hostage according to the will of one permanent member of the U.N. or another or the will of one inspector or another,'' he said. At issue for the bulk of Iraqis who wish to go to Mecca has been how money from Baghdad's oil revenues, deposited in a U.N. escrow account, would reach the pilgrims. Iraq had insisted that $50 million be transmitted to its central bank, while council members say this would violate sanctions. ... --------------------------- March 2 Extract from AP report on US Democratic Party Candidates Views on Defense ... DEFENSE: Bradley: ... As senator voted ... for sanctions instead of military force against Iraq. ... -------------------------------------- Mar 2 UN Iraq Inspector Wants Arms Access By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press Writer UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The new chief U.N. weapons inspector for Iraq is demanding that Baghdad give his arms experts free access to suspected weapons sites, but says Iraq shouldn't consider it an attempt to ``humiliate'' the government. Inspections by impartial international arms experts would only help bolster Iraqi claims that it has eliminated its weapons of mass destruction and deserves to have sanctions suspended, Hans Blix said Wednesday. The longer Baghdad delays cooperation, the longer it will have to wait for the ``light that might be at the end of the tunnel'' to arrive, he said. Blix spoke on his first day as executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission. The agency was created in December to replace the U.N. Special Commission, which had been working with the International Atomic Energy Agency since 1991 to oversee the destruction of Iraq's biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and missile programs. Weapons inspectors from both agencies left Iraq in December 1998 ahead of U.S. and British airstrikes, launched to punish Iraq for failing to cooperate with the inspectors. Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan has said Baghdad would not accept new U.N. weapons inspectors, but other Iraqi officials have left open the possibility for compromise if the Security Council makes some unspecified changes in its new Iraq policy. Blix, director general of the Vienna-based IAEA from 1981 until 1997, said he was working on the assumption that Iraq would ``one day'' accept weapons inspections and was preparing an organization plan and staffing arrangements to get the agency up and running. He countered critics who claimed that based on his IAEA experience he might be too soft on Iraq, saying he intended to aggressively pursue leads about Baghdad's weapons programs. ``Indeed, I think that such inspections are indispensable in order to get to credible evidence about the arms,'' Blix said. But he stressed it was not his role or intention to ``humiliate'' the Iraqis and added that it was important to remember that Iraq was not a country ``under occupation.'' ``It is under the control of the government and you cannot go on forever taking the authorities by surprise there,'' Blix said. ``Inspectors are not an army. They are not a commando troop that can leap in and shoot their way to the target.'' Blix's predecessor, Richard Butler, was known for his outspoken and confrontational attitude toward Baghdad during his two-year term as executive chairman of the Special Commission. Under Butler, the Special Commission was tainted by allegations that the United States used it to spy on Iraq allegations Iraq has cited to bolster its claims that Washington was using the agency to justify maintaining sanctions. Iraq has said it has destroyed all of its prohibited weapons, meeting U.N. requirements to have sanctions lifted. To guard against further allegations, Blix said one of his first decisions would be to require that the bulk of his staff be on the U.N. payroll and not paid by individual governments. The United States had several arms experts on loan from the State Department and CIA, arrangements other governments had as well. There is no way to completely guarantee against ``infiltration,'' Blix said. ``The only thing I can promise you is that if I discover, if I find that staff is not loyal, then I will fire them.'' Despite calls from some Security Council members for the new commission to start with a clean slate, Blix said he recognized that Special Commission staffers had vital experience that he would want to tap, at least in the shortterm. ------------------------------ Thursday March 2 3:22 AM ET Iraqis Said Living in Poverty By EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press Writer UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Iraq's people are living in poverty and a generation of children is not getting a proper education despite improvements to the U.N. humanitarian program, the outgoing head of the program said. Hans von Sponeck, who resigned effective March 31 to protest U.N. sanctions, said Wednesday the deprivations were ``due to internal and external factors.'' He refused to blame Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, though he stressed: ``I have never argued that the difficulties under which the population exists is only due to external factors. It is much more complex.'' Von Sponeck would not discuss his earlier calls for the U.N. Security Council to lift sanctions and separate Iraq's humanitarian needs from its disarmament. His comments angered the United States and Britain and led SecretaryGeneral Kofi Annan to ask him not to speak on his own behalf while still on the U.N. payroll. Instead, von Sponeck cited a British House of Commons committee report saying comprehensive economic sanctions cause ``significant suffering'' and it would be difficult to conceive of a future case in which the United Nations would be justified in imposing them. Asked whether there was pressure to resign from governments unhappy with his statements, von Sponeck said he ``got the message'' they were displeased, but the only pressure to step down came from himself. ``I'm a person with a mind and a heart ... and I for myself didn't see that I could be useful to the United Nations and to myself given my interpretation of the local situation,'' said von Sponeck, a German who has worked for the United Nations for 32 years. Spelling out his final assessment, he said the U.N. oil-forfood program, which began in 1996 to help ordinary Iraqis cope with sanctions imposed after Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, is ``inadequate'' despite an increase in revenue in recent years. The program, he said, provides the 23 million Iraqis with only an average of $252 in humanitarian aid every year, which ``puts Iraq in the category of a least developed country.'' Iraqis still are not receiving enough food or medicine and only a fraction of critical equipment for the electricity sector has arrived, he said. The oil industry ``is in a very precarious state,'' and water, sewage and garbage collection ``are in very bad shape.'' The education sector receives only a small percentage of the funds, school enrollments are down, and one in five children go to bed malnourished, von Sponeck said. ``To me it is the key concern,'' because the system is leaving Iraq's youth ill-prepared to be productive adults, he said. --------------------------------------------- Wednesday March 1 2:15 AM ET War, Sanctions Said Hurting Iraqis By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press Writer UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Two wars and nearly a decade of sanctions on Iraq have led to the collapse of the country's health system and threaten the very survival of the Iraqi people, a new report from the International Committee of the Red Cross says. Even if the sweeping trade sanctions were lifted tomorrow, ``it would take years for the country to return to the same standards as before the Gulf War,'' because of the utter devastation, said the report, which was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. ``Iraq: A decade of sanctions,'' outlines ICRC work in Iraq following the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and was intended to justify to donors why the relief organization has had to increase its budget and operations in the country, ICRC officials said. But it also has added some fuel to the increasingly volatile debate over the sanctions and their impact on Iraq's 22 million people, offering details of the desperate state of the nation's hospitals and the population as a whole. ``Deteriorating living conditions, inflation and low salaries make people's everyday lives a continuing struggle, while food shortages and lack of medicines and clean drinking water threaten their very survival,'' the report said. Iraq's collapsed health system and badly damaged water sanitation system pose the ``gravest threat,'' it said. U.N. Security Council resolutions say Iraq must be declared free of its weapons of mass destruction before sweeping trade sanctions, imposed after Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, can be lifted. The United States has blamed Iraq for the suffering of its people, saying President Saddam Hussein has prolonged sanctions by refusing to cooperate with arms inspectors and has failed to implement a U.N. aid program that allows Iraq to buy humanitarian goods through U.N.-supervised oil sales. Washington, however, also has come under fire internationally and at home for its hard line on sanctions and for blocking Baghdad from receiving badly needed equipment through the U.N. program. The United States says it wants to make sure the goods, which include equipment to repair Iraq's bombed-out power grid, oil industry and water sanitation system, aren't used for military purposes. The Security Council has pledged to try to improve the efficiency of the U.N. humanitarian program in Iraq, but the ICRC report said that neither the oil-for-food program nor any other aid program can meet all of Iraq's basic needs. The report paints a bleak profile of the effect that the dilapidated infrastructure has had on Iraq's health system, profiling four hospitals and a health center that ICRC members visited as part of an in-depth survey last year. Basic rules of hygiene are not followed at the Al Karama Teaching Hospital in Baghdad because of a lack of disinfectants and water, the report says. Syringes, intravenous lines and fluids are in short supply. The sewage treatment plant has not worked for years and electricity is erratic. At the Basra Teaching Hospital, waste water seeps through the piping - and in one case, dripped from the ceiling into the abdomen of a patient, the ICRC report quoted the hospital director as saying. The patient survived. But the entire basement is inundated under water, making it home to rats and stray dogs. Doctors at the Al-Rashad Psychiatric Hospital, meanwhile, have no access to anti-psychotic drugs and must administer electric shock treatment to patients when they are awake because there is no anesthesia. The report notes that the problems are compounded by the fact that most of the equipment and technology that made Iraq's health system among the best in the Middle East before the Gulf War was imported - meaning its upkeep was particularly vulnerable to sanctions. ``The population, in particular doctors, technicians and teachers, are now exposed to Third World problems which they had never been prepared to deal with,'' the report said. --------------------------------------------- Wednesday March 1, 5:51 pm Eastern Time Iraq to continue oil sales once $5.26 billion hit By Peg Mackey BAGHDAD, March 1 (Reuters) - Iraq will keep exporting oil after it reaches revenue sales of $5.26 billion during the current phase of United Nations oil sales, Iraqi Oil Minster Amir Muhammad Rasheed told Reuters on Wednesday. ``It's a simple computation -- at present prices we have already signed contracts for more than $6.5 billion,'' Rasheed said.``We do not recognise the ($5.26 billion) ceiling. It is clear we do not take this into consideration.'' Baghdad spurned a U.N. resolution agreed last December which aims to ease sanctions provided weapons inspectors return to Iraq. Iraq also refused to accept that part of the resolution which did away with the oil-for-food deal's $5.26 billion revenue ceiling. That decision has kept oil markets guessing about Iraq's course of action once U.N. oil sales revenues reached $5.26 billion. That point looked likely to be hit by the end of this month. But Rasheed made clear that Iraq was not even tacitly accepting the sanctions-easing resolution by opting to pump through $5.26 billion. Since the fifth and sixth phases of the oil-for-food deal, ``we have not limited our exports by any ceiling -- we have exported as much as we can,'' he said. ``We only have technical limitations.'' TECHNICAL RESTRICTIONS REDUCE EXPORT SALES Those technical restrictions have reduced Iraq's export sales from 2.3 million barrels per day (bpd) last year to current rates of about 1.8 million bpd. Iraq decided to decrease its production and export programme after seeing more than 80 percent of U.N.-authorised spare parts contracts put on hold during the sixth phase of the oil-for-food exchange, Rasheed said. As a result, pumping rates during the current seventh phase -- which expires on June 8 -- have been decreased by about 300,000 bpd, Rasheed said. ``We must be responsible and preserve the wealth of the Iraqi people,'' Rasheed said. ``We have already done short and medium term damage and we could easily embark on long-term damage to our reservoirs which is irreversible.'' Rasheed said the decrease was an initial step. ``It doesn't mean we intend to reduce further,'' he said. ``We cannot prejudge the situation. It is really the U.N. Security Council which will decide our action.'' Of utmost importance is reaction to a report by U.N. oil experts on Iraq's oil sector which is due to be presented on March 10, he added. ``The U.N. experts supported us fully,'' Rasheed said. ``If the Secretary General definitely supports our requirements...and if the American position changes, we will review our position.'' About 1,000 contracts in total are now being held by the Security Council, many of them blocked by the United States, diplomats said. Under growing international and domestic pressure for its sanctions stance, Washington has promised to review its policy of holding up contracts for oil sector equipment, chemicals and spare parts. ``We have to see a good percentage of vital items released,'' the minister said. ``Then we will definitely review our policy and we might increase exports.'' But Iraq is keeping its options open. ``We could easily go back to exports of 2.3 million bpd, stay at 1.8 million bpd to 1.9 million bpd or go further down,'' Rasheed said. ----------------------- Tuesday February 29 12:35 PM ET U.S. Jets Bomb Iraqi Sites ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) - U.S. warplanes bombed Iraq's air-defense system Tuesday after the jets were fired upon by Iraqi forces in the northern no-fly zone, the U.S. military said. It was the second such incident in as many days. Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery at the allied planes near Bashiqah, 250 miles north of Baghdad, according to a statement from the U.S. European Command in Germany. All planes left the area safely, the statement said. ... ------------------------- -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi