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[casi] Blair's press conference yesterday

Dear List

At Tony Blair's press conference yesterday, he was specifically asked about
the consequences of war on the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi
population. The question was asked by a journalist from the Mirror, on the
basis of a report released by CASI last Friday (all references are below).
In his reply, Blair quoted a senior UN official who has now claimed that
his words were mistranslated.

Blair was asked: "A new UN report for Kofi Annan is warning over one
million Iraqi children face death from malnutrition in the event of war.
What is your reaction to that?"

Part of Blair's reply is:

"Indeed I think I am right in saying that the UN Commissioner last week, Mr
de Melo, who spoke about the fact that if there was regime change in Iraq,
then the position of the Iraqi people could then improve because of the
appalling circumstances in which they are living today."

The individual he's referring to is the United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Sergio Vieira de Mello. The UNHCHR has issued a
clarification, claiming that de Mello's remarks were mistranslated:

de Mello actually said:

"What is certain is that wars lead to violations of human rights and
therefore the shorter they are, the better. Therefore, everything depends
as well on the duration of wars. If the war were short, we could expect
that the post war period might improve the human rights situation."

Although the statement is ambiguous, it's a far cry from Blair's claim.

Blair's other claim in response as part of this question, that:

"you will also find from what the UN has been saying that there are
appalling humanitarian consequences happening now in Iraq, and they are not
happening because of America or Britain, they are happening because of

- is pure fantasy. The UN Security Council's own panel on sanctions wrote
in 1999 that:

"Even if not all suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors,
especially sanctions, the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such
deprivations in the absence of prolonged measures imposed by the Security
Council and the effects of the war"

- para.45 of

The other relevant references are as follows:

Transcript of the Prime Minister's press conference on the 18th February

CASI Press release: Over 1 Million Iraqi Children Might Die in War - Secret
UN Document (17 February 2003)

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,
"Integrated Humanitarian Contingency Plan for Iraq and Neighbouring
Countries" [Confidential Draft] (January 7, 2003), via:

Gary Jones, "Million Iraqi Kids Would Die in Conflict", Daily Mirror
(London), 19 February 2003:


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