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Monday, September 13, 1999 Published at 23:26 GMT 00:26 UK

World: Americas

US: Iraq 'lying' about sanctions

The US says it's time for Saddam Hussein to go

By BBC Washington Correspondent Rob Watson

The US says Iraq is importing as much food and selling almost as much oil as it was before the Gulf War.

The problem, according to Washington, is that Saddam Hussein refuses to distribute food and medicines to his people.

The report accuses President Saddam Hussein of deliberating withholding such supplies in order to use the suffering of his people to get UN sanctions lifted.

The US also produced aerial photographs it says shows what can happen to Iraqi villages and towns where people complain about the shortages.

[ image: The US said that Iraq could buy food under the UN Oil-for-food programme]
The US said that Iraq could buy food under the UN Oil-for-food programme
The state department spokesman James Rubin accused President Saddam Hussein of bulldozing the homes of ordinary Iraqis while wasting the country's money on a resort for officials of the ruling Baath Party.

"They are using for wasteful programs to allow the elite to ride their own Ferris wheels, have their own private doctors and go to their own sports stadiums," Mr Rubin said.

He said that Saddam Hussein has spent an estimated $2 billion to construct 48 palaces.

Time for Saddam Hussein to go

Another senior state department official Martin Indyk said it was clearly time for President Saddam Hussein to go, which he insisted would be the best thing for the people of Iraq and its neighbours.

He outlined efforts the US has taken in the past six months to strengthen Iraqi opposition against Saddam Hussein.

"We have worked hard with the Iraqi opposition in exile to bring them together, to broaden their representation, to get them to put their internal conflicts behind them, and to unite in the effort to change the regime in Iraq," Mr Indyk said.

Plight or propaganda?

The US hopes this report will counter Iraq's constant campaign for the lifting of sanctions in advance of talks at the UN over what to do next about the continuing stalemate with Baghdad.

Mr Rubin said: "We often hear that sanctions are hurting the Iraqi people, but an analysis, an objective analysis of the facts reveals that Iraq has access to international markets and the money to buy food, but Saddam will not buy or distribute it to the needy."

Mr Indyk said that while the mortality rate continued to rise amongst children, he said that it was not due to a lack of food or medicine as a result of international sanctions.

"Those medicines and nutritional supplements are either sitting in warehouses under Saddam Hussein's control, or he has refused to order them," he said.

Mr Hussein is allowed to import $25Mn for nutritional supplements under the oil for food arrangements, but he has spent only $1.7Mn on food, he said.

Mr Indyk asked what that showed about Mr Hussein's intentions with respect to providing for children. Answering his own questions, he said, "it is, indeed, to use the plight of Iraqi children as a propaganda tool against sanctions."

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