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[casi] Iraq Water and Sanitation Could be Military Target Says England

Iraqi water and sanitation systems could be military target, says MoD

By Jo Dillon, Deputy Political Editor

02 February 2003

The Ministry of Defence yesterday admitted the electricity system that powers
water and sanitation for the Iraqi people could be a military target, despite
warnings that its destruction would cause a humanitarian tragedy.

While military planners insist they have taken into account the humanitarian
threat in the event of hostilities breaking out, a spokesman for the MoD
admitted decisions may have to be made where a potential target had a "dual

But any plan to bomb Iraq's electricity system will anger aid charities,
whose warnings were repeated by the Secretary of State for International
Development, Clare Short, last week.

Ms Short, who is to take up the matter with the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
later this week, said that "any bombing to take out electronic capacity and
thus disarm anti-aircraft capacity could present a danger to electrics and
damage water and sanitation facilities as a consequence".

"There would be the resultant danger that people would not have access to wa
ter and that sanitation facilities would be even worse than they are now.
Clearly, preparations need to be made against that eventuality so that the
health of the people of Iraq does not suffer."

While the MoD would not be drawn on possible targets they insisted "every
care would be taken in all circumstances at every planning level that all
targets were military targets and there was very little chance of injury to
civilians or non-military targets. However, a spokesman added: "I can
obviously see the difficulty in this because a target seen as a military
target can also have, sadly, implications for civilian populations as well."

Ms Short has warned that on top of the threat to the water and sanitation
system the Oil For Food programme would also be disrupted by military action
at a time when millions of Iraqis were dependent on it.

"It is a massive system and most of the people of Iraq depend on it, not
simply for adequate supplies but in the case of Baghdad-controlled Iraq for
the very basics of human survival," she said.

"Accordingly, any action needs to be very organised and calm, ensuring that
the capacity of the system is maintained or a replacement system is put into
place very quickly."

However, the Government has admitted there has been only limited contingency
planning for the humanitarian effects of military action on Iraq. While the
United States announced last week it would make available $15m (9m) in aid,
the British Government has yet to announce any additional funding for the
humanitarian effort.

Talks with Iraq's neighbours about the housing of up to a million refugees
have been non-existent, the Government has admitted.

And the United Nations High Commission for Refugees said last week that plans
are "in terms of scope ... not really on a large scale".

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