28th February 2000

Dear Friends,


We enclose

1. A letter highlighting the recent resignation of Hans von Sponeck, the UN assistant secretary general and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq.

We urge you to do the following:

1. Write letters to the editors of your local and national newspapers and urge journalists to cover this tragedy.

2. Publicize this in your local print and electronic media, in-house magazines, etc

3. Appeal to your government to exert and increase diplomatic efforts to end the economic sanctions which is causing great suffering and death of innocent Iraqi civilians especially the elderly and the young.

4. Organise public forums and discussion groups to discuss the issue.

5. Have dialogues with parliamentarians, the Foreign Ministry, and the Representative to the UN of your own country on what can be done to relieve the situation in Iraq.

6. Pass resolutions in your organisations/unions etc. calling for an end to the inhuman UN sanctions against Iraq. Give a copy to the editor in your local print and electronic media.

7. Submit the resolution and or memorandum to the US and UK Representative in your country. Give a copy to the editor in your local print and electronic media.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

S. M. Mohd. Idris
Third World Network


25th February 2000

Letter to the Editor

UN Chief condemns UN sanctions in Iraq

The resignation of three senior UN officials in Iraq within the last one and half years in protest of the continuing economic sanctions underscores the rank failure of the UN sanctions. It also calls into question the effectiveness of the UN relief programmes in Iraq.

Early last week on 14 February 2000, Mr. Hans von Sponeck, the UN assistant secretary general and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq announced his resignation after strongly condemning the economic sanctions for unjustly punishing the innocent Iraqi people. He called for an end to the sanctions, saying his conscience cannot be silent over a 'true human tragedy' that had no end in sight.

Mr. von Sponeck, whose resignation will take effect on 31st March after 15 months on the job, has spoken of the destruction of Iraqi society under sanctions.

'As a UN official, I should not be expected to be silent to that which I recognise as a true human tragedy that needs to be ended' he said.

"How long the civilian population, which is totally innocent on all this, should be exposed to such punishment for something that they have never done?" he asked.

Two days after von Sponeck's resignation, on 16 February, Ms Jutta Burghardt, the head of the UN World Food Programme in Baghdad, also offered her resignation to protest how the economic sactions against Iraq are eroding its society.

In a telephone interview with The Washington Post from his office in Baghdad, Mr. von Sponeck said he and Ms. Burghardt resigned after concluding that the latest UN Security Council resolution passed last December, provided false hope that the suffering of ordinary Iraqis would soon be eased.

Mr. von Sponeck's predecessor, Mr. Dennis Halliday, who left the same position after 13 months in September 1998, also cited similar concerns for his resignation, calling the sanctions a 'totally bankrupt concept'.

Mr Halliday who had had a distinguished UN career spanning 34 years said the economic sanctions violated the UN charter and UN conventions on human rights and that he 'could not continue to take part in a policy that was deliberately causing grave and widespread suffering throughout Iraq, while failing to address the root causes of the humanitarian crisis.'

Since his resignation, Mr. Halliday has been committed to his work on behalf of the Iraqi people as he continues to publicly campaign against the US-led UN economic sanctions in Iraq.

According to the UN's own statistics, these sanctions have killed more than 1.7 million Iraqis - 500,000 of them children and the infant mortality rate has more than doubled since its implementation in the last nine years. A litany of other independant studies conducted by humanitarian groups have also supported and exposed the devastating inhumane situation in Iraq which is causing irreparable damage to an entire generation of children.

Mr. von Sponeck also criticised the inadequate Oil-for-Food programme for failing to meet the minimum humanitarian needs of Iraq's 22 million people. In fact, UN reports consistently highlight high malnutrition rates among Iraqis, especially the children.

All of Iraqi's oil revenue earned through the above relief mechanism are controlled by the Security Council. After allocations are taken out to pay billions of dollars for Gulf War reparations and UN administrative expenses, the amount of money which reaches the average person in Iraq is a mere 25 cents per person per day which is hardly enough for survival.

Under the same programme, the US has manipulated the vague category of dual military and civilian use to stop or delay further study of contract applications already approved by the UN Sanctions Commission. By January 2000, the suspended contracts reached 813 in number valued at US$1.183 billion.

In fact, Mr Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General had in October last year sent a letter to the Security Council indirectly criticizing the US for holding up approval of hundreds of contracts for humanitarian goods under the Oil-for-Food programme.

This means many basic items such as chlorine which is essential for water purification, are banned because of their alleged potential use in chemical weapons production. Such policies have made many other vital infrastructures providing amenities such as waste and sewerage treatment, electricity, food and oil production impossible to be rebuilt and/or repaired.

The Oil-for-Food deal cannot solve the health problems in Iraq because it was intentionally created to serve that purpose. It is another tactic which the US uses to divert attention from the genocidal effects of the sanctions.

Mr. von Sponeck's outspoken views on the sanctions, failure of the UN's humanitarian programme and his intention to release a farewell report on the effects of the continued bombing in Iraq on the civilian population have infuriated Washington and London.

The resignations illustrate increasing opposition to the UN's near decade of sanctions on Iraq.

Immediately following the protest resignation of Mr. Von Sponeck and Ms. Burghardt, the call to pressurise the UN and US in ending the comprehensive economic sanctions on Iraq is gaining momentum.

Last Wednesday, on 16th February 2000, seventy US Congress members held a joint press conference with Arab-American groups in Washington for this purpose.

The group's spokesman, Mr.David Bonior, a Democrat for Michigan State described the current sanctions 'infanticide masquerading as policy.' He added, 'Our message is simple. We're saying: millions of children are suffering and we refuse to close our eyes to the slaughter of innocents.'

The seventy members of Congress had earlier signed a letter urging President Clinton 'to do what is right: lift the sanctions.'

Sanctions are not the humane alternatives to war. We cannot remain inert while allowing the sanctions to continue murdering 300 children everyday. It is time we expose the human face of this new weapon of sanctions, especially the children.

In the light of this indescribable suffering, and in solidarity with the innocent Iraqi people, the sanctions must end.

Thank you.

S. M. Mohd. Idris
Third World Network