Global Policy Forum

UK Briefing on Iraq


By Peter Hain
Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK

Extract from Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK
October 23, 2000

I hope you might have noticed that today, just issued at the United Nations, is the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Report on Iraq which paints a devastating picture of continued human rights abuses within Iraq and shows that Saddam Hussein remains the brutal dictator that we always knew he was, oppressing his own citizens in a relentlessly tyrannical fashion and doing so without regard to human rights. It is perhaps the terrorisation by the government of Iraq of the wives and children and relatives of those who have dared to raise their voices against Saddam which is the most awful part of his murderous rule. The Special Rapporteur's Report is a devastating indictment of those evil practices.

In addition, there are two pieces of new information which we have collected. First of all you will see there a picture of Saddam City which is available on the US State Department's website. Based on a combination of intelligence reports and also Iraqi Free Radio and other published sources, it shows that Saddam has built a massive luxury resort complex for his cronies. It means that his closest friends and relatives will be able to live a life of luxury whilst he complains that his own people are suffering as a result of United Nations sanctions. The truth is that if he wished and chose to support his own people, he has the resources to do so.

Iraq's oil exports are now running at about $24 billion a year. There is more than $16 billion a year available for food, medical supplies and other humanitarian relief programmes, and yet some of it is being held back by Iraqi bureaucracy, preventing the Iraqi people from receiving the support which we in the international community, and Britain especially, want to give them. Saddam City contains stadiums, an amusement park, hospitals and 625 homes. We understand it also has a safari park with deer and elephants. These animals reportedly graze on lush vegetation grown with the latest irrigation systems, whilst of course many of Saddam's own people are denied access to proper water and sanitation. The resort is equipped with the latest communications systems, including television stations, satellite TV and other equipment not available to ordinary Iraqis. Preferential telephone rates are a part of the deal. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars and demonstrates that Saddam is only interested in looking after his own clique rather than his people.

Equally devastating, I think, is the massive bills that are being run up for luxury imports and I detail here the cigarettes and alcohol which are going in all the time across various frontier posts to Iraq. In the last 6 months, and these figures incidentally have been provided through the United Nations Security Council, Saddam Hussein has imported over 300 million cigarettes, 38,000 bottles of whisky per month, 230,000 cans or 115,000 litres of beer per month, over 120,000 cans or 40,000 litres of vodka per month and almost 19,000 bottles of wine a month. This is decadence on a truly obscene scale and contrasts again with the misery which so many of the Iraqi citizens are suffering. It is also evidence of Saddam playing politics with the suffering, spending illegal oil revenues through smuggling on luxuries rather than food and medicine for the Iraqi people. And I think it is very important that we all understand that despite the existence of sanctions, which Britain wants to see suspended through Resolution 1284, there is billions and billions of dollars of food, medical aid and other humanitarian relief available to the Iraqi people, but instead of concentrating on improving that, Saddam Hussein is feeding his own clique with the luxuries that I have detailed here.


We are seeing more and more aircraft landing at Baghdad airport. Some Arabic countries, for example Syria, didn't inform the UN before sending one of the last aircraft going to Baghdad. Is there any reaction from the UK government?


We deplore all flights in breach of United Nations sanctions. Of course humanitarian flights are permitted and have been going in for a while, there is no problem with that provided they are notified properly, including the details of the passengers and cargo to the United Nations Sanctions Committee, as is provided for. That is important because otherwise flights could be carrying all sorts of illegal equipment and cargo in contravention of UN sanctions. So I hope that these flights will end and that proper approval will be obtained for each flight in the future.


Does it remain British policy to say there is no prospect of sanctions being lifted? Do you think that will remain a realistic policy for the next few months or years?


Our policy remains that we will want to see sanctions suspended but the only vehicle for achieving that is for Iraq to accept the international will of the United Nations and implement Security Council Resolution 1284. Sanctions could be suspended within six months of Hans Blix's arms inspectors entering Iraq, that is something we would like to see because it would move the whole situation forward. In the absence of that there is no prospect of sanctions being suspended and any fantasy that flights going in, with or without UN approval, are going to undermine the fundamental structure of sanctions is precisely that - a fantasy.


If you are keeping such a close eye on imports into Iraq, do you have evidence of any imports of nuclear components to speed his mass destruction programme?


First of all, one of the reasons why holds are put on the import of certain equipment, some of it often of a medical character, is precisely because there is a determination by the United Nations, which we fully support, to check whether dual use is possible - dual use for weapons of mass destruction, biological, chemical or even conceivably nuclear. That is why we feel it is absolutely right to scrutinise all requests for imports very, very closely. We don't have any direct evidence that any of these overt imports which have passed through the United Nations structures have been re-equipping his weapons of mass destruction programme, but we do know that that weapons of mass destruction programme is alive, there is no question about that.

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