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The BBC's Martha Dixon
"The organisers of this humanitarian mission were in defiant mood on arrival"
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Saturday, 13 January, 2001, 17:33 GMT
US protesters fly into Iraq
us aid
The US activists arrive in Baghdad
By Barbara Plett in Baghdad

A group of American activists have flown into Iraq to protest against UN sanctions against the country.

We want to show that we are sorry for the damage that the American bombs are doing

Activist James Jennings
Members of Conscience International - a coalition of American religious and humanitarian organisations - say they are the first US civilian group to fly into Baghdad since the Gulf War.

They plan to deliver $150,000 worth of medicines, eye-glasses and school supplies in the latest in a stream of flights that are challenging the 10-year-old air embargo.

The group's president, James Jennings, said: "We want to show that we are sorry - as Americans we are sorry for the damage that the American bombs are doing, for the 140 civilians that were killed by American bombs.

Bombed bridges have remained unrepaired because of the sanctions
"We're probably the first Americans who have flown over Iraq for a long time that haven't dropped bombs on the country."

US President-elect George W Bush has said he would be tougher on the embargo, which is linked to disarming Iraq, than the current administration.

But he will be trying to counter a strong trend towards ending Iraq's isolation.

The delegation's visit, which coincides with the tenth anniversary of the Gulf War, comes as international disapproval grows against sanctions.

No one has taken radical action against the sanctions so far though, even this group.

Although it did not ask for US permission, it did fly in a Jordanian plane that was approved by the UN.

Oil for food

Baghdad says that around 1.5 million Iraqis have died because of the shortages in medical and food supplies since the imposition of the embargo, and blamed continuation of sanctions on Washington.

Under a special deal with the UN, Baghdad is allowed to sell oil to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian needs for the Iraqi people.

US and British warplanes still patrol two no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq set up soon after the Gulf War.

The zones, which Baghdad does not recognise, are to protect a Kurdish enclave in the north and Sh'ite Muslims in the south from possible attacks by Iraqi troops.

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Bush faces Iraq dilemma
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