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In case you haven't seen it yet, today's Guardian is worth a look. Below are two items: 1. Letter from George Galloway 2. Article by Ewen MacAskill Best wishes, Nick. ----- Galloway to Hain: We'll see you in court Thursday March 23, 2000 The Guardian Peter Hain's parsimony with the truth about the Big Ben to Baghdad flight (Letters, March 21) is miserly. The facts are these. After weeks of daily cooperation with the Foreign Office, we were ambushed by Mr Hain acting - we must suppose - on behalf of his new American friends. In a little over 24 hours over a weekend, he demanded we cut the number of journalists, aid workers, doctors, religious leaders etc on board from 207 to 104, then to "30 to 40" then "20 or so". That weekend he first said he would put the flight to the UN sanctions committee as he was "bound to do", then that he would not, then again that he would. When, in the teeth of opposition from my comrades, I surprised him by acceding to all his demands, he came back giving me three hours to comply with a new raft of demands from the US representative on the sanctions committee. These were the reclassification of a typhoid vaccine as a potential weapon, a bewildering array of new aviation questions and, crucially, a demand for the precise purpose of each of the 29 people who would be on board. All of this is in writing and available for inspection and was widely reported. In the face of these new demands, we called a press conference, announced our refusal of these terms, the postponement of the flight and the commencement of a legal case against the government for putting all of this - unlawfully we contend - to the sanctions committee in the first place. Hain's letter now claims there was no significance in these new demands and that he obtained UN clearance as soon as we postponed the flight. Peculiar, you might think, as we refused to answer the long list of new demands we were given three hours to deal with. In any case we have seen no such UN clearance and neither has anyone else. We will, however, see Mr Hain in court. George Galloway MP ----- Battered Iraqis get by on a wing and a prayer Some things can be mended, but not the knowledge deficit Iraq: special report Ewen MacAskill in Baghdad Thursday March 23, 2000 The Guardian Mustafa al-Aana, a medical student in Baghdad, can identify an automobile's year and make at a glance, and so can every other driver in the Iraqi capital. It becomes easy after a while because there are few models newer than 1990, the year President Saddam Hussein sent his army to invade Kuwait, United Nations sanctions were imposed on his country and the world stopped for ordinary Iraqis. Car identification is an obsession. Drivers point out Austins, Vauxhalls and Chevrolets. One driver reeled off the cars to either side of him: "Toyota Crown '87. Honda '89. Volkswagen '92". The vehicles keep running with bastardised spare parts and lots of ingenuity. The main thoroughfare, Rasheed Street, looks life a moving junkyard, with some of the cars dating back to the early 1960s. Mr Aana drives a battered Datsun '79, which long ago ceased to have any paint on the bodywork or any tread on the tyres. Spare parts are hard to come by because of sanctions, and for three months last year Mr Aana drove without brakes. He demonstrated his stopping system, a combination of crashing down the gears and pulling on the hand brake. "Now, I have a good brake system. Do not worry," he said, peering through the windscreen, which had four big cracks. Above the windscreen hung a little prayer: "Our God is great because he is the creator of the materials of this car. Thanks for God." Car breakdowns in the middle of the road are frequent, but Mr Aana claimed that, even though the driving was high speed and aggressive, there were few accidents, because people knew they would have difficulty repairing their cars. Within minutes of that remark, he said calmly: "We may have an accident." The traffic lights. had cut out, a frequent hazard in Baghdad because of the power shortage. He hurtled towards the mass of cars stuck at the junction, but his newish brakes, put in by his dentist cousin, worked. After 10 years they have still to be lifted, and the standard of living in a country which had been among the wealthiest in the Middle East, has gone backwards. Daily life is tough for just about everyone except the elite and those who have got rich by smuggling in goods from Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Iran. The sanctions have hit the middle classes badly, but it is the poorest who are taking the brunt. Children selling in the street or begging are a distressing sight. Infant mortality rates have soared, the sanitation system is a health hazard and diseases and infections that had been eradicated, such as cholera, diphtheria and polio, have returned. Medicine and medical equipment, subject to sanctions, are in short-supply. The Iraqis claim that 1.2m people, many of them children, have died as a consequence of the sanctions regime. Mr Aana, 26, in the fourth year of studies at Baghdad's Almustanseria University, lives with his parents - one an engineer and the other a teacher - and his brother and sister, in a four-bedroom, two-storey house in the al-Anleria district. He is dressed in trainers, neatly pressed jeans and a fake designer-label shirt. He is full of enthusiasm for life. He gets up at 7am and travels to university by buses that are in an even worse state than the cars, pouring out black smoke. "The pollution is killing us," he said. In the evenings, he shuns the pool tables popular with his contemporaries and watches little television, preferring to divide his time between the mosque and study. "I have my dinner, I pray to my God and I go to bed." Electricity is rationed to three hours on for every three hours off, leaving much of the city in total darknesss apart from an occasional oasis of light where someone wealthy has a private generator. Mr Aana studies by paraffin lamp. He is imbued with a war-time spirit that makes him defiant about sanctions. "Our grandfathers did not have electricity. We can go back to bikes. We will not die of hunger. We can eat one date. We can eat bread and we will not die. It is not a problem," he said. The main problem, he said, was knowledge. Almost all his textbooks were out of date. Books and periodicals as well as computers are banned under the sanctions regime. His main textbook, Davidson's Practice of Medicine was updated every four years, he said, but the copies the university had were dated 1980. Rationing cards provide citizens with monthly flour, rice, sugar, tea, cooking oil, beans, cheese, soup, soap and detergent, but in such small quantities that, according to one resident, families ran out in about eight days. "It is not enough. There is little protein, carbohydrates, so little sugar and poor quality detergent," Mr Aana said. Just about anything else, including medicine, is available in the markets, but at such inflated prices that they are beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest. The family income is supplemented by an overseas relative. Mr Aana is better off than many, but even for him the shops of Arasat, Baghdad's dowdy and dusty equivalent of Fifth Avenue, are just a dream. When he finishes his studies, he can expect little material reward as long as the sanctions remain in place. Inflation, running at Weimar Republic levels, has made salaries almost worthless. Ten years ago, one Iraqi dinar was worth $3.3; today $1 buys 1,900 dinars. Wads of notes, a foot thick, are needed for even simple purchases. A doctor who 10 years ago would have earned the equivalent of about $300-$400 now takes home the equivalent of $1.50, enough to fill a car with petrol. With salaries almost worthless, why bother studying? "I do it for my country. It needs doctors," Mr Aana said. He seemed to mean it. Two disastrous wars and 10 years of economic sanctions have not weakened the Iraqi people. They may not like President Saddam but the sanctions have united them against the west. Their sense of nationalism has strengthened. "Here in Iraq, we can live with no brakes. I can live with no brakes," Mr Aana said. 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