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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. http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4113256,00.html I fought apartheid. I'll fight Saddam My critics are wrong: they are merely propping up a dictator Special report: Iraq Peter Hain Guardian 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 aggression. 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 tunnels. 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 programmes. 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. ^Õ Peter Hain MP is a Foreign Office minister -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://www.casi.org.uk