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UN Chief Suggests UN Losing Propaganda War on Iraq

Note how absurd the Dutch ambassador's comments are ... 


UN Chief Suggests UN Losing Propaganda War on Iraq


Friday March 24 12:33 PM ET


By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on
Friday the United Nations may be in danger of losing the propaganda war
on sanctions against Baghdad if more steps are not taken to improve life
for ordinary Iraqis.

At the same time Annan, opening a major Security Council debate on Iraq,
said Baghdad should comply with council decisions, an apparent reference
to disarmament demands, so that 10-year-old sweeping U.N. sanctions end

With the Security Council divided on Iraq, the debate on humanitarian
issues, in itself, was controversial. Russia, China and France wanted the
U.N. relief agencies to speak. The United States and Britain agreed but
said the U.N. human rights investigator had to be included as well.

In the end Annan was the only U.N. official to speak. But Carol Bellamy,
the head of the U.N. Children's Fund, UNICEF, was in the council to
answer questions.

``The United Nations has always been on the side of the vulnerable and
the weak and has always sought to relieve suffering,'' Annan said. ``Yet
here we are accused of causing suffering to an entire population.''

``We are in danger of losing the argument, or the propaganda war -- if we
haven't lost it already-- about who is responsible for this situation --
President Saddam Hussein or the United Nations,'' he said.

Saying he was particularly concerned about the suffering of Iraqi
children, Annan told the council: ``We cannot in all conscience ignore
such reports or assume they are wrong.''

He complimented the council for drawing up procedures to expedite some
vital goods and realized that people under sanctions could be victims of
their own government also.

``The only satisfactory outcome of any such situation is for the state in
question to return to full compliance with the decisions of the council
so that sanctions can be ended as quickly as possible,'' Annan said.

 Annan also said the amount of contracts frozen in the Security Council's
sanctions committee had a direct negative impact of the humanitarian
situation, particularly on efforts to rehabilitate Iraq's crumbling

The United States, according to U.S. officials, has put some 1,000
contracts worth more than .5 billion on hold, either because they could
be used for military purposes, for smuggling oil or because the
applications lacked details.

Britain runs a distant second with about 100 contracts on hold while
Russia, France and China, all sympathetic to Baghdad, rarely put any
contracts on hold.

Iraq has revenues to purchase billion in goods since the so-called
``oil-for-food'' program, which allows Baghdad to sell oil in order to
buy humanitarian goods, began in December 1996. Some .4 billion in
supplies have arrived.

A new U.S. review of sanctions measures, just completed, would result in
an immediate lifting of 70 contracts worth million, U.S. officials said,
along with other measures.

Washington has also agreed to Annan's proposals to double the amount of
equipment for Iraq's oil industry >from million to .2 billion annually
and has drawn up a resolution to this effect, expected to be adopted next

By upgrading the oil-for-food program and Baghdad's oil industry,
Washington hopes to alleviate the humanitarian situation and counter
rising demands to lift the sanctions, in force since Iraq's August 1990
invasion of Kuwait.

An easing of sanctions requires compliance on disarmament and Iraq so far
has not let U.N. weapons inspectors return to the country since December

The United States is particularly concerned about the increased value in
oil smuggled by Iraq through Iranian waters, which could total between
million and billion this year. Diplomats say the oil is exchanged for
luxury goods and projects for the Iraqi elite, in what some diplomats
called an ''oil-for-whiskey'' scheme.

Dutch ambassador Peter van Walsum, chairman of the council's Iraqi
sanctions committee, said Iraq was the only country in modern history
that not only attempted to develop all categories of weapons of mass
destruction but actually used them against a foreign country and its own

``In doing so, Iraq has placed itself into a league of its own,'' he

He said Iraq had repeatedly blocked improvements to the humanitarian
program, including a refusal to institute it for several years. ``The
international community is almost defenseless against this approach,'' he

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