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Re: Peter Hain and von Sponeck

The confrontation continues.... today's crop of Iraq-related letters in
The Guardian, reproduced below, includes a joint reply from Hans von
Sponeck and Denis Halliday to Hain's reply to von Sponeck's open letter:,3604,419063,00.html
Admit you have failed, Mr Hain

Monday January 8, 2001
The Guardian

* The issue of Iraq in 2001 is too critical for the future of its people,
Europe's relations with the Middle East and the standing of international
law for us to remain silent about Peter Hain's article (I fought
apartheid, I'll fight Saddam, January 6).

We write from privileged experience since we were charged by the UN
secretary general to oversee the oil-for-food programme soon after its
inception, from 1997 until last year. We both resigned in protest against
what we perceive as a failed Iraq policy, with all its tragic human
consequences, and the violation of international law.

Arguing for an end to economic sanctions is not at all about "propping up
a dictator". Have sanctions targeted the proper parties? No. Have
sanctions imposed in 1990 retained their legality? The UN Charter, the
International Covenants on Human Rights and a host of other treaties allow
only one answer: they have not.

Peter Hain is indeed "ducking the debate". We all know, professionally and
personally, how difficult it is to admit failure. What a powerful and
honourable signal Hain would send, if such awareness of failure would
translate into courage for change.

Hain has been hiding behind a smoke-screen for a long time with his
defence of an indefensible policy conducted with little respect for facts.
"Iraq was a threat to humanity and this threat is real now," he maintains.
This is a house of cards held aloft by those who want to maintain the
status quo.  Disinformation is morally and legally also indefensible.
Hain's reference to UN resolution 688 as the legitimisation for the
"no-fly-zones" in Iraq is an example. This resolution makes no reference
to a right to take over Iraqi airspace, resulting in the tragic killing of
civilians as detailed in the 1999 UN security reports.

Hain repeatedly stresses that those who oppose sanctions offer no
alternative. This is false. Both of us, for example, have said time and
again that the UN security council should delink economic sanctions from
the disarmament debate while imposing arms controls on Iraq and those
countries which wish to sell arms to Baghdad, keeping in mind resolution
687, paragraph 14, which calls for the establishment in the Middle East of
a zone free of weapons of mass destruction; we have argued that the hidden
agenda of hardline geo-strategic interests be dropped and a dialogue be
started; we have also argued that the unrealistic demand for quantitative
disarmament be replaced by negotiations on weapon systems containment.

We, too, fight against "appeasement of oppression". Ours, however, is a
fight against the violation of international law by the UN security
council and the sacrifice of innocent civilians as pawns.

Denis Halliday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq 1997-98
HC von Sponeck, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq 1998-2000


* "You simply have to notify the UN" to export food and medicines, writes
Peter Hain. The tortuous bureaucracy of the UN is beyond the scope of a
letter. Exporting anything takes many months, on the UN's own admission.

If a patient needs medicine it is needed immediately. I was threatened
with prosecution by the Department of Trade and Industry for taking a
small package of chemotherapy to Iraq for a surgeon with cancer - who had
worked here for many years saving the lives of British children.

A London-based Iraqi sent insulin in a Jiffy bag to his diabetic brother
in Baghdad. It was returned by the Post Office with a request for an
export licence. Before the licence was granted, his brother had died.

Felicity Arbuthnot


* Peter Hain's concern for the Kurds in Iraq would be touching if he
extended it also to the Turkish Kurds. His support of UN resolutions
imposed on Iraq would be more credible if he adopted the same attitude to
those against Israel. His opposition to Iraqi weapons would be more
justified if he condemned Israel's nuclear capability. Condemning Saddam
Hussein is one thing but getting at him through the innocent children of
Iraq is another.

June and Tony Freke

* Peter Hain claims that the bombing of northern Iraq by British and US
aircraft was "in support of security council resolution 688, which called
on Iraq to end its repression of Kurds and the Shia".

Nowhere in the resolution is there even a hint about using force against
Iraq. But it makes the point that "all member states" are committed to
"the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Iraq
and of all states in the area". So this is UN permission to bomb Iraq, is

Brian Cloughley
Thornhill, Dumfriesshire


* Peter Hain has some nerve comparing the sanctions on Iraq to the
sanctions imposed on apartheid South Africa. Whereas in South Africa it
was the oppressed people who themselves called for sanctions to be
imposed, there has been no such call from the Iraqi people. Whereas
sanctions actually hurt white South Africa, they stand no chance of
ousting Saddam.  Indeed, sanctions have brought appalling hardship upon
the people of Iraq and have served only to strengthen Saddam's grip on

Timothy Walker

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