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breaking news: french plane lands in Iraq

Dear all,

Let's utilize this event to increase the media coverage on the sanctions
on Iraq.  This story is making the news, so letters to the editor are
critical -- now. Please check your local paper for this story, and write a
short letter to the editor highlighting the plight of the Iraqi people.

Two articles are enclosed regarding the French flight.

-Rania Masri

Paris-Baghdad Flight Takes Off In Defiance Of Sanctions
(Associated Press, 22 September 2000)

PARIS (AP)  A plane carrying doctors, sportsmen and writers left Paris on
Friday for Baghdad, the first such flight from France since the United
Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq a decade ago for invading Kuwait.

France-Info radio said the chartered plane left Charles de Gaulle airport
at 8:35 a.m. for Baghdad, with about 60 passengers aboard.

France informed the U.N. sanctions committee on Iraq on Thursday night
that the humanitarian flight would be taking off. France refused a request
to delay the flight for 12 hours so the issue could be studied.

Russia sent a similar flight to Iraq last Sunday and received committee
approval although its passenger list also included oil executives
interested in making deals with Baghdad.

The French flight included doctors, some sportsmen and writers,
France-Info said.

The increased flights, with their questionable passenger lists and
last-minute notifications, are an indication of the growing challenge to

France was among a handful of U.N. Security Council members that stepped
up a campaign against the sanctions on Thursday, with proposals to cut the
compensation fund for victims of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and delay a $16
billion payout to Kuwait's oil company.

Beginning Sept. 26, a committee of Security Council members is to decide
whether to award $16 billion to Kuwait Petroleum Corp. from an account
funded by proceeds from the U.N. oil-for-food program.

The program allows Iraq to sell unlimited amounts of oil provided that it
uses the profits to buy humanitarian goods for its people suffering under
sanctions. Thirty percent of every dollar from oil sales, however, is
diverted to an account to compensate victims of Iraq's 1990 invasion of

French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte told the Security Council that such
an enormous payout to the Kuwaiti company Gă÷ at a time when oil companies
are benefitting from record high oil prices Gă÷ was unconscionable given
the suffering caused by the sanctions.

He proposed that the council consider reducing the amount of money
diverted into the compensation account from 30 cents on the dollar to 20
cents and have the proceeds be used to buy more humanitarian goods a
proposal backed by Russia and Tunisia, Western diplomats said.

France, traditionally, has had close ties to Iraq, but joined the
multinational force fighting Iraq.

  French defiant on flight to Iraq
     BBC Friday, 22 September, 2000, 02:12 GMT 03:12 UK

            A diplomatic row has blown up at the United Nations over a
direct flight between Paris and Baghdad.  ^ [The flight is to] to fight
against an intolerable situation which condemns an innocent population to
a slow agony^ Flight organiser Father Jean-Marie Benjamin

      About 80 French doctors, artists and sports personalities are
planning to leave for Baghdad at 0800 (0600 GMT) on Friday to provide
medical assistance and take part in a cultural festival.  Britain and the
United States say that the French are violating UN sanctions against Iraq
by not giving enough notice of the flight.  However, France maintains that
it is not trying to erode sanctions, but merely interpreting UN
resolutions in a more liberal way than Washington and London.

      The flight has been arranged by a private French group opposed to
the international sanctions imposed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in
1990.  A second French group has announced plans for another flight on 29
September.  Its organiser, Father Jean-Marie Benjamin, said it was "to
fight against an intolerable situation which condemns an innocent
population to a slow agony".

      Last week Russia flew a passenger flight to Iraq carrying
humanitarian aid and a number of oil executives.  But it gave the UN
sanctions committee a few day's notice, enabling other countries to decide
whether they wanted to raise any objections.


      However, this time, France gave the committee only a few hours'
notice, arguing that it did not need the UN's approval as the flight is
not commercial.

      Britain has formally objected to the flight, saying that it breaks
the sanctions.  "We objected. We don't think it is humanitarian," a
British diplomat said.

      US officials said they were still reviewing the situation, although
they had raised similar concerns earlier in the day.  The Netherlands,
which chairs the committee on the Iraqi sanctions, has asked France to
delay the flight's departure.  Both France and Russia, close trading
partners of Iraq before the invasion of Kuwait, want the sanctions eased
and lifted.

      Future of sanctions
      The BBC's United Nations correspondent says the row over flights
raises questions about the future of the sanctions now that such prominent
countries appear increasingly willing to test the embargo's limits.  Iraq
re-opened its international airport last month to enable it to receive
international flights against, despite the sanctions.  In a separate
development, Russia, France and Tunisia have proposed a reduction of the
amount of compensation Iraq pays to Gulf war victims >from 30% to 20% in
order to allow more funds for humanitarian goods.  The proposal comes as
the UN Security Council discusses the latest UN report on the oil-for-food
programme that allows Iraq to buy humanitarian goods to counter the effect
of sanctions. 

BBC News Online

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