Iraq Says UN Sanctions Crumbling

August 7, 2001

Iraq said United Nations sanctions were crumbling as they entered their 12th year yesterday and urged the Security Council to lift them. "We are resisting the unjust embargo and we are able to destroy its walls," a front-page editorial in the ruling Ba'ath party Al Thawra daily newspaper said. "Iraq's struggle against the unjust embargo will continue until it is destroyed in all its forms," the military Al Qadissiya newspaper said.

A UN official said the sanctions hampered economic activity but that the "oil-for-food" programme, which allows Iraq to sell oil to buy food, medicines and other humanitarian items, was assisting the civilian population to cope. "The oil-for-food programme is not a substitute for full economic activity. While the sanctions remain in place, it is the best way to assist the people of Iraq," George Somerwill, spokesman for the UN Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, told Reuters.

The comments came on the 11th anniversary of the UN Security Council's decision to impose sanctions on Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait. The main target for attack by the Baghdad press was the United States, which strongly opposes any lifting of sanctions.

Iraq sees the embargo as Washington's weapon of last resort to try to topple President Saddam Hussein's government after failing to oust him in the 1990 Gulf War following the invasion of Kuwait. "America is seeking to make the sanctions a lasting punishment to further its political goals, which are aggressive and have nothing to do with international law," Thawra said. Washington maintains that Saddam is responsible for the Iraqi people's suffering.

The papers also called on the UN Security Council to lift the sanctions. "It is high time for the Security Council to lift the unjust embargo without any condition," Al Thawra declared. Iraq says it has met all its commitments towards the UN Security Council resolutions governing the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire. But the UN says the sanctions will not be lifted until UN arms inspectors verify Iraq is free from weapons of mass destruction. UN weapons inspectors have not been allowed into the country since December 1998 when the United States and Britain launched a four-day military attack on Iraq.

Yesterday's angry editorials in the official media said the sanctions amounted to "genocide". "The embargo has led to the death of 1.5 million Iraqi children, old men and women," Al Qadissiya said. Washington and London recently tried to convince the Security Council to revamp the sanctions regime, but their effort was blocked by Russia. The U.S.-British "smart sanctions" plan sought to ease restrictions on civilian goods, retain bans on military hardware and review a list of "dual-use" supplies that could be used for both military and civilian purposes.

The papers accused U.S. and British representatives at the UN sanctions committee on Iraq of blocking 1,932 contracts worth $5.4 billion to buy humanitarian items under the oil programme.

More Information on the Oil for Food Program
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq
More Information on the Iraq Crisis

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