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Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Limited The Times (London) February 21, 2001, Wednesday SECTION: Overseas news LENGTH: 605 words HEADLINE: UN officials round on Americans as 'real villains' BYLINE: Stephen Farrell in Baghdad BODY: A SENIOR United Nations official in the Middle East has accused the United States of imposing unnecessary suffering on the Iraqi people for its own political ends. Voicing a sense of anger and disillusionment that the UN's humanitarian programme has been undermined, the official said that he could not think of a single success of the policy "except in killing children" and believed that the only reason sanctions were still in force in their present form was because no one could be seen to back down. Another said that while there were signs that Britain was prepared to ease the restrictions, the United States showed no signs of movement and consistently blocked even seemingly reasonable requests by Iraq to release money for humanitarian aid. "The Americans are, I am afraid, the real villains in all this," the source, who insisted on anonymity, said. Pointing to the toleration of smuggling across Iraq's borders into Turkey and Jordan and illegal shipments of Iraqi oil, he said that many believed the real objective was to maintain a weak but stable President Saddam Hussein in power and serve America's main Middle East policy objective -to stop the emergence of any threat to Israel. Officials at Turkey's southern Zakho border crossing report that for every humanitarian aid lorry that they check, 200 pass through that they have no authority to control. No other international agency monitors them. "Sanctions are ineffective because certain very clear and obvious weaknesses are allowed to exist and have been allowed to exist from day one," one diplomat said. "Some are easy to explain: Turkey is allowed to take in all the oil it can smuggle because it provides the Incirlik base from which British and American planes patrol the northern no-fly zone over Iraq. "The programme is full of loopholes the Americans choose to turn a blind eye to. They could easily blow out of the water many of these small tankers shipping illicit oil out of Iraq. You have to ask why they are not doing it and what it is about the status quo that the Americans like. "The fact is that, as things stand, Saddam is in his box, he is strong enough not to allow the country to break up, he can keep Iran and the region's oil-producing nations on their toes, but he is not threatening anybody and certainly not threatening their (the US's) No 1 ally, Israel." Sanctions were imposed by the UN Security Council in August 1990 after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The threat of an impending famine in 1996 saw the introduction of the humanitarian "food for oil" programme, by which Iraq is allowed to sell as much oil as it can produce in return for shipments of food and humanitarian aid. These have to be cleared in advance by a UN sanctions committee and are checked at the Turkish, Syrian and Jordanian border crossings and Iraq's Gulf port by UN inspectors. Iraq has long complained that the delivery of many essential items is blocked or held up by the sanctions committee. More than Pounds 2 billion in supplies are now "on hold". The United States and Britain say that Iraq could easily spend more on food and medical supplies, but chooses to buy weapons instead. They suspect also that many requested items could be used to rebuild and strengthen Iraq's military forces. The distinction between genuine need and potentially sinister items is hugely difficult to make in practice. Pressed on anomalies in the programme, Benon Sevan, the UN's executive director of the Office of the Iraq Programme, conceded recently: "Don't look for logic in the Iraq programme. There is no logic." LOAD-DATE: February 21, 2001 ----------------------------------------------- FREE! The World's Best Email Address @email.com Reserve your name now at http://www.email.com -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 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