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The following is a letter by Hans von Sponeck to Peter Hain, published in 
The Guardian on January 4, 2001.

http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,417598,00.html


Dear Minister Hain,

17 December 2000 was the first anniversary of UN Resolution 1284. This 
resolution was offered by the UN security council last year as a step 
forward in resolving outstanding disarmament, and arms monitoring issues as 
a precondition for the suspension of comprehensive economic sanctions 
against Iraq.

As many feared, including myself, this resolution was a still-born creation. 
For this neither the British nor the Iraqi governments but rather the people 
of Iraq continue to pay dearly and daily. The European public is 
increasingly unwilling to accept such a policy. There is deep concern 
because of the suffering of innocent civilians and the irrefutable evidence 
of violations of international law by the UN security council.

Without a transparent political agenda and a determined end to contaminating 
information, I do not see an end to this costly human tragedy in Iraq. Your 
speech of 7 November at Chatham House has not helped in this regard. Let me 
single out nine specific points of what you have said:

 "Our air crews risk their lives patrolling the skies above southern Iraq."

The public does not know that you do this without a mandate by the UN 
security council. It is in your hands to stop endangering your pilots by 
withdrawing them from Iraqi skies. It angered your office that I introduced 
air-strike reporting for 1999 while serving in Iraq. I did so as the UN 
secretary general's designated official for security because of the dangers 
for the security of a highly mobile team of UN observers travelling daily on 
the roads of Iraq. The report showed that out of 132 incidents, UN staff was 
witness to such air strikes on 28 occasions.

The public does not know that in the very areas you established as 'no-fly 
zones' to protect (7) the population living there, 144 civilians died and 
446 were wounded by UK/US airforces. The FCO classified these reports as 
Iraqi propaganda with a UN imprimatur" even though much of it was collected 
and verified by UN staff travelling in the areas at the time of the strikes.

 "Our sailors are involved in activities to curb the illegal export of 
Iraqi oil."

This is known. You are silent, as you have been in all your statements, 
about the UK condoned export of illegal oil from Iraq into Turkey. Your 
silence is understandable albeit not acceptable if you want the full story 
to be known. US/UK concurrence to this illegal export of oil is in exchange 
for Turkish government agreement to the use of Incirlik airbase in 
south-eastern Anatolia for allied sorties into the northern no-fly zone of 
Iraq.

 "I firmly believe that he (President of Iraq) remains determined to 
develop his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons capacity."

You offer no evidence. What I in turn 'firmly believe' is that you want to 
keep a picture of Iraq alive even though it no longer reflects the realities 
on the ground. This is not surprising. Without it the case for sanctions 
would be over. I remind here of what former Unscom chief weapons inspector 
Scott Ritter recently said: "There is absolutely no reason to believe that 
Iraq could have meaningfully reconstituted any element of its WMB 
capabilities in the past 18 months." Around the same time, Dr Blix, 
executive chairman of Unmovic, answered the question whether there was any 
indication that Iraq was trying to rearm. "No, I do not think you can say 
this. We have nothing to substantiate this."

 Iraq resolution 1284 "represents the collective will of the Security 
Council and has the full force of International Law."

You know how deceptive this assertion is. Three out of five permanent 
members and Malaysia did not support this resolution. Yes, security council 
decisions constitute international law. This puts a formidable 
responsibility on the shoulders of the UN security council. You are aware, 
no doubt, of the increasing numbers of serious objections by international 
legal experts to the continued application of these laws. The evidence is 
overwhelming that after ten years of sanctions these 'acts' have become 
illegal.

 (UN) "resolution 1284 removed the ceiling on the amount of oil Iraq is 
allowed to export."

This is a political ploy. Your government knows well from annual UN reports 
on the state of the Iraqi oil industry that Iraq cannot pump more oil unless 
the UN security council allows a complete overhaul of the oil industry. You 
mention "recent increases' in (oil) production." Why do you do this when you 
know that the Iraqi oil output has not increased at all but exports have 
fluctuated around 2.2m barrels per day?

 "With this large amount of revenue available, one cannot help but ask why 
we still see pictures of malnourished and sick children?"

My first reaction to this tendentious statement is to ask whether your 
officials ever show you UN documents? Unicef has repeatedly pointed out that 
this reality is only going to change when the sanctions regime is once again 
replaced by a normally functioning economy. Let me add that more often than 
not, it is the blocking of contracts by the US/UK which has created immense 
problems in implementing the oil-for-food programme. The present volume of 
blocked items amounts to $2.3bn the highest ever.

 "It is an outrage that the Iraqi government wilfully denies food and 
medicine...".

Please forgive me if I say that it is an outrage that against your better 
knowledge you repeat again and again truly fabricated and self-serving 
disinformation. Why do you ignore UN stock reports which give you the 
monthly distribution situation and which, verified by UN observers, show for 
food, medicines and other humanitarian supplies an average of over 90% 
distributed per month?

 "Contrast the situation with northern Iraq where the same sanctions apply 
but Saddam's writ does not run."

This statement is correct. The Kurdish areas are indeed doing better. I am 
distressed, however, about the false impression you create with the 
simplistic causality you offer. A fair comparison would mention that i) the 
Kurdish population received 19.4% of the oil revenue, i.e. a 
disproportionately higher amount than the population in central/southern 
Iraq; ii) sanctions are regularly broken in northern Iraq; iii) there is 
extensive cross-border trade with Turkey and therefore good income earning 
opportunities; iv) the UN security council does not block many contracts 
benefiting the Kurdish areas; v) the climatic conditions in the hilly areas 
of the north are more favourable. Why are you, Minister, not mentioning 
these factors?

 "... there are those who are undermining sanctions and challenging the 
authority of the UN."

Yes, this is true, and it includes me. Do accept, Minister Hain, that I do 
so with the utmost discomfort. I am fully aware that this weakens the very 
machinery which has been set up to deal with conflicts like this one. 
However, I see no other alternative when the fundamentals of human rights 
and international law are applied in a biased and lopsided manner. The human 
rights coin has two sides, Minister. Lawlessness of one kind does not 
justify lawlessness of another kind! This has grave consequences not only 
for the suffering of the Iraqi people but also for the importance we should 
ascribe in Europe to the laws earlier governments have helped to create. The 
FCO should carefully study the deposition of Professor Bossuyt to the Human 
Rights Commission in June 2000. It provides comprehensive legal arguments by 
a large group of jurists of the serious violation of international law by 
the UN security council in which the UK has always played such an important 
role.

Let me end by saying, the Iraq file cannot be handled objectively and in the 
interest of the people of Iraq unless the hidden agenda disappears. When 
this happens then but only then does this sentence in the closing paragraph 
of your Chatham House speech get the value it deserves. " We support human 
rights, transparency and accountability for other people because the values 
we demand for ourselves!" Yes, this is how it should be, Minister!

Yours Sincerely
H.C. Graf Sponeck
Former Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq

Geneva, December 2000







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