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Annan fears for Iraq's health

Monday, 13 March, 2000, 05:02 GMT 
BBC News
Annan fears for Iraq's health
UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan is to recommend an easing of restrictions
on imports into Iraq because of their impact on the already tottering
health care system.

He also calls on Iraq to improve its delivery of drugs, in a report due
out later this week, which has been seen by the BBC.

Mr Annan expresses serious concern about the state of the health care
system in Iraq.

His report covers the UN's humanitarian programme in Iraq, under which
Baghdad is allowed to sell oil in exchange for food and medical supplies.

He says the erratic and un-coordinated arrival of drugs to treat chronic
diseases may have contributed to increasing deaths among patients
suffering from diabetes, heart, liver and kidney disease.  Delays in the
arrival of vaccines have interrupted the country's immunisation campaigns,
he adds.

His report recommends that UN Security Council members should allow in
some of the imports they have placed on hold.

Such restrictions, mostly the work of the United States or the United
Kingdom, have been placed on $1.5bn worth of goods, of which $150m are
medical supplies.

Internal dissent 

The UN has come under severe criticism recently over policy towards Iraq. 
The co-ordinator of its own humanitarian programme in Iraq resigned last
month in protest over the impact of UN sanctions on Iraqi civilians.

Mr Annan will get a chance to discuss his concerns with UK Prime Minister
Tony Blair during talks in London on Monday.

MP's mission to Iraq 

Mr Annan's report came to light as UK MP George Galloway left for Jordan,
on the first stage of a journey intended to take children's medicines to

Mr Galloway had originally intended to fly direct from London to Baghdad
on Saturday in what would have been the first direct aid flight from the
West to Iraq in a decade. 

But his journey was postponed after the UK Government referred his mission
to the UN sanctions committee.

The MP will now travel the 1,000km (600 miles) from Amman to Baghdad in a
road convoy.

'Survival at risk' 

Earlier this month, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned
that the very survival of the Iraqi people was under threat following two
wars and 10 years of sanctions.

An ICRC report said Iraq's collapsed health facilities and badly damaged
water sanitation system posed the gravest dangers.

The US says the Iraqi Government is responsible for the country's misery
because it had not complied with terms for lifting sanctions, and also
blames the authorities in Baghdad for not distributing the medicines which
they have. 

But a BBC correspondent has said the US appears now to be considering
greater flexibility on Iraqi import requests.


The UN imposed sanctions on Iraq following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and
the ensuing war.

Certain humanitarian supplies are allowed into Iraq, but the UN is
concerned to keep out anything which could potentially be used in the
manufacture of weapons - including vaccines which some say could be used
to make biological weapons.

Critics of sanctions say the UN criteria are too harsh, and are preventing
the import of materials which have no sinister purposes.

The US and UK have carried out repeated bombing raids on Iraq since
Baghdad refused to co-operated with UN weapons inspectors in 1998.

In the latest raid, at the weekend, Iraqi officials reported that eight
people had been injured during attacks on civilian installations in the
south of the country.

There was no word from American or British officials. 


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