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Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 18:46 GMT
Iraq sanctions 'a tragedy'

Child in hospital Hospitals say they are short of basic supplies

A senior United Nations official in Iraq has again called for an end to UN sanctions, saying they have created a "true human tragedy".

Hans von Sponeck, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Baghdad, said the UN's oil-for-food programme was not meeting the minimum requirements of the Iraqi people.

Under the programme, Iraqi oil can be sold to buy food, medicines and other supplies.

"As a UN official, I should not be expected to be silent to that which I recognise as a true human tragedy that needs to be ended," Mr Von Sponeck said.

"How long the civilian population, which is totally innocent on all this, should be exposed to such punishment for something that they have never done?" he asked.

How long the civilian population, which is totally innocent on all this, should be exposed to such punishment for something that they have never done?
Hans von Sponeck

Mr Von Sponeck has in the past drawn harsh criticism from the United States and Britain for similar statements.

At the time he was accused of exceeding his mandate and his dismissal was demanded. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was believed to have resisted and asked him to stay for another year.

Oil production in crisis

The head of the UN oil-for-food programme, Benon Sevan, has warned that Iraq's oil industry is in a lamentable state, and unless Baghdad is allowed to buy spare parts, production will drop.

Mr Sevan told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that a drop in oil exports could affect humanitarian relief for Iraqis struggling to cope with economic sanctions.

He said council members had not responded to repeated appeals from Mr Annan to remove their "holds" on applications to send humanitarian supplies and oil sector equipment to Iraq.

"We would appeal to all members of the council to reflect on the argument that unless key items of oil industry equipment are made available and commissioned within a short time, the production of oil is likely to drop. This is a very clear warning," Mr Sevan said.

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