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Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 17:42 GMT
US congressmen criticise Iraqi sanctions

Anti-sanctions demonstration in New York Protesters in New York call for an end to sanctions

A group of United States congressmen - both Democrats and Republicans - are putting pressure on the Clinton administration over its support of the United Nations economic sanctions against Iraq.

The group's spokesman, David Bonior, a Democrat for Michigan, has described the sanctions as "infanticide masquerading as policy".

Our message is simple. We're saying: Millions of children are suffering and we refuse to close our eyes to the slaughter of innocents
David Bonior, Democratic Senator for Michigan
The group's comments came within days of the resignations of two senior UN officials in Iraq who had strongly protested about the effects the UN embargo is having on Iraqis.

The embargo was imposed after the Gulf War to punish Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990 and force it to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction.

'Hurting Iraqis not Saddam'

The bipartisan group of congressmen held a press conference in Washington on Thursday in conjunction with Arab-American groups.

They were representing a larger group of 70 legislators who had signed a letter urging President Bill Clinton "to do what is right: lift the economic sanctions".

Sanctions have obliged many Iraqis to rely on hand-outs
The congressmen said they supported the military embargo on Iraq, but wanted to see the economic embargo lifted.

The letter read: "While we have no illusions about the brutality of Saddam Hussein, the people of Iraq should be allowed to restore their economic system."

"This embargo has not hurt Saddam Hussein or the pampered elite which supports him, but has been devastating for millions of Iraqi people," congressman Bonior said.

UN resignations

The head of the World Food Programme, Jutta Burghardt, announced her resignation on Tuesday - just days after the UN's top humanitarian official in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, did the same.

They had strongly criticised UN economic sanctions, in very similar terms to those used by the US congressmen.

Mr von Sponeck said he resigned because he had lost hope that conditions would improve for Iraqi civilians.

Von Sponeck Mr von Sponeck said he had given up hope of helping Iraqis
He said the latest Security Council resolution, passed in December, covering the UN's humanitarian programmes was unworkable and would not ease the human tragedy in Iraq.

The resolution offers Iraq a suspension of sanctions in return for full co-operation with a new arms control group.

Analysts say that many of the details of the resolution have been left vague, suggesting that each step will face deadlock in the divided Security Council.

Iraq has condemned, but not formally rejected, the resolution.

The UN officials and US congressmen are part of a growing body of people who argue that the concerns of Iraqi civilian concerns should be separated from the questions of military disarmament.

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See also:
15 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Iraq: Second UN official resigns
14 Feb 00 |  Middle East
UN sanctions rebel resigns
14 Feb 00 |  Middle East
'Lost generation' faces bleak future
08 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Iraq sanctions 'a tragedy'
04 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Iraq concessions unlikely says UN
06 Nov 99 |  Middle East
US attacks Iraq aid chief
17 Jan 00 |  Middle East
UN rejects Iraq nominee
17 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Saddam defiant over Gulf War

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