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Peter Hain and von Sponeck

If anyone feels inspired to write a letter, they might want to reply to
Peter Hain's article in the Guardian (included below), itself written in
reply to Von Sponeck.,4273,4113256,00.html
I fought apartheid. I'll fight Saddam
My critics are wrong: they are merely propping up a dictator

Special report: Iraq

Peter Hain

Saturday January 6, 2001

There is vigorous public debate about Britain's support for UN sanctions
on Iraq. I have no intention of ducking this debate, because I am
convinced Britain's policy is right.

Saddam Hussein's regime is a danger to its neighbours and to its people.
That danger must be contained. Britain has a duty to play its role, as a
supporter of the UN, a defender of human rights and an opponent of

Hans von Sponeck (Foreign Office challenged on UN's Iraq sanctions,
January 4) and other sanctions critics overlook the nature of Saddam
Hussein's Iraq. He has used chemical weapons against his own people and
against Iran. He has invaded Kuwait. And he has terrorised his country,
ordering political killings, torture and mutilations.

Sanctions were imposed to force Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass
destruction. The threat was real then. It remains real now. Iraq is still
hiding weapons of mass destruction. It has admitted concealing chemical
and biological weapons and missile parts in the desert, caves and railway

UN weapons inspectors have been unable to account for 4,000 tonnes of
so-called precursor chemicals used in the production of chemical weapons,
610 tonnes of precursor chemicals used in the production of the nerve
agent VX and some 31,000 chemical weapons munitions. Iraq retains a
capacity to develop nuclear weapons.

The consequences of ending containment by abandoning sanctions would be
horrendous. One teaspoon of the nerve agent sarin can cause up to 10,000
deaths. The international community cannot walk away from this threat.

Sanctions have contained the regime's threat to its people and neighbours.
Since they were imposed, Iraq has not used chemical weapons against the
Kurds or Iran or invaded its neighbours. Nor has it fired Scud missiles at
Israel. Before sanctions Iraq did all of these. That is why Britain
supports sanctions.

Critics of our policy point to the suffering of the Iraqi people under
Saddam Hussein. But they move quickly and uncritically to the conclusion
that sanctions are the cause of the suffering.

This year the UN is making up to $17bn available to Iraq for the purchase
of humanitarian goods. This is more than Egypt, Syria or Jordan have to
spend in equivalent areas (eg health, education, housing). Yet critics
never ask why the people of those countries do not suffer the same
privations as the people of Iraq. Could the answer be to do with Saddam's
brutal indifference to the condition of his people?

In recent years, sanctions have been targeted more closely on items of
potential use in weapons programmes. It is a myth that sanctions cover
food and medicines. To export the majority of goods to Iraq - including
food, medicines, agricultural, educational and water and sanitation goods
- you need simply notify the UN.

The Iraqi people continue to suffer because the regime is not spending the
money made available by the UN on its people's needs. Iraq has ordered no
medicines under the UN oil for food programme for the last six months.
Iraq had put $1.1bn worth of goods on hold at the end of October. Iraq is
exporting food and medicine.

Why has Iraq blocked a team of experts from visiting the country to assess
the humanitarian situation?

Hans von Sponeck's open letter to me asserted that UK and US aircrews
patrolling the "no-fly zones" have no mandate from the security council.
The "no-fly zones" were established in support of security council
resolution 688, which called on Iraq to end its repression of Kurds and
the Shia. Would von Sponeck have us abandon these people?

He is wrong to suggest the UN has verified Iraqi claims about civilian
casualties. UN staff witnessed only 28 out of 132 incidents in which UK or
US aircraft allegedly took action. Of these 132 incidents, UK or US
aircraft were not flying on at least 30 of the days mentioned. Iraq
regularly reports bombings when UK or US aircraft have not been flying.

He is wrong to say the UK holds up the UN humanitarian relief programme.
The UK puts less than 2 % of all the contracts submitted to it on hold
because of serious concerns about the goods' possible use in Iraqi weapons

He gives no credit to this Labour government for taking UN resolution 1284
through the security council, lifting the limit on the amount of oil Iraq
can exchange for humanitarian goods.

This resolution offers a way out of sanctions. It allows for sanctions
suspension in return for cooperation with UN weapons inspectors. Critics
of sanctions should unite with us in calling on the regime to take up this
offer. By aligning themselves with Iraq in opposition to the UN they are
perpetuating a situation they claim to want to end.

They offer no alternative. They simply want us to abandon Saddam's victims
to their fate. This sounds to me like the kind of appeasement of
oppression I fought against in my anti-apartheid days and am fighting
against today in my opposition to Saddam Hussein's brutality.

^ Peter Hain MP is a Foreign Office minister

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