Global Policy Forum

Iraq Assesses Humanitarian Program


By Nicole Winfield

Associated Press
May 13, 1999

United Nations - The U.N. humanitarian program in Iraq has failed to relieve the suffering of the country's people, Iraq says in a report that calls for sanctions to be lifted.

Iraq's foreign minister sent a 12-page assessment of the oil-for-food program Wednesday to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, saying that ending sanctions was the only answer since the program, started in 1996, was a failure. Iraq "calls upon you to shoulder your responsibility by frankly announcing that the program has never, and will never, achieve the lifting of the great suffering of the Iraqi people,'' Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf wrote to Annan.

"The only logical solution is the lifting of the blockade without additional conditions,'' he concluded. Al-Sahhaf said the process for approving and delivering humanitarian goods to Iraq takes too long, and that the United States and Britain continue to block approval for equipment to repair Iraq's oil industry.

The letter came after the U.N. humanitarian program itself concluded earlier this month that the program - while delivering billions of dollars worth of food and medicine to Iraqis living under U.N. sanctions - cannot meet the overwhelming needs of the people. The U.N. oil-for-food program allows Iraq to sell $5.26 billion worth of oil over six months to buy spare parts and food, medicine and other humanitarian aid for 22 million Iraqis suffering under sanctions imposed after Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The sanctions bar Iraq from freely selling its oil on the open market, depriving it of its most valuable commodity.

U.N. officials have stressed that the program was never intended to take care of all the needs of the Iraqis, and has faulted the Baghdad government of failing to implement it effectively.

On Wednesday, the head of the program, Benon Sevan, said government warehouses were "literally overflowing,'' with medicine that had been purchased through the program but not delivered. U.N. figures show that about $570 million worth of medicine and medical supplies had arrived in the past two years, but that only 48 percent had been distributed to clinics, hospitals and pharmacies. Al-Sahhaf acknowledged that medicines had been held up in warehouses, but he blamed the delay in distribution on New York. Some medicines can only be distributed with certain equipment, and when the equipment doesn't arrive, the medicine has to be stockpiled, he wrote.

Under U.N. resolutions, the embargo cannot be lifted until U.N. weapons inspectors report Iraq has destroyed its banned weapons.

More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq

More Information on the Iraq Crisis


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