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The BBC's Barbara Plett
"Humanitarian staff have been outspoken about sanctions but it's less common from arms inspectors"
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Sunday, 4 June, 2000, 21:31 GMT 22:31 UK
Ex-Unscom chief attacks sanctions
Mass funeral for Iraqi children
Mass funerals for Iraqi children are a regular event
Richard Butler, the controversial former head of the United Nations arms inspection team in Iraq, Unscom, has publicly criticised the sanctions imposed on Baghdad after the Gulf War.

Speaking on the BBC's Talking Point on Air, Mr Butler said sanctions harmed the Iraqi people and had not realised their declared aim of stripping Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

I'm not trying to shirk responsibility - I accept completely the responsibility I exercised

Richard Butler
He becomes the biggest name on a growing list of former UN employees involved with Iraq who have pointed to fundamental flaws in the organisation's Iraqi policies.

"I deeply believe that sanctions as now applied to Iraq have been utterly counterproductive for this disarmament purpose," Mr Butler said.

Butler in Baghdad
Butler was accused by Iraq of being a tool of the US
He was responding to a question from an Iraqi caller from Germany who had accused him of being instrumental in the imposition of "murderous" sanctions against Iraq.

"I'm not trying to shirk responsibility.

"I'm not just splitting hairs by saying sanctions were not my responsibility, I'm stating a fact," he said.


Mr Butler stressed that Unscom's job was solely to report to the UN Security Council on progress towards Iraqi disarmament.

As the body's chief, Mr Butler was well known for confrontations with Iraqi officials over access to weapons sites.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein's rule is untouched by sanctions
He was accused by Iraq of being a tool of the US, which Baghdad said had no intention of lifting sanctions regardless of progress on disarmament.

Inspectors have not returned to Iraq since they withdrew in December 1998 ahead of a US-led bombing campaign, and Baghdad has refused to accept a reconstituted inspection regime.

'Double standards'

Mr Butler put forward his theory, expounded in a recently published book, that sanctions need to target the Iraqi leadership rather than the ordinary people of Iraq.

He also suggested that unity and collective action by the Security Council was vital, while divisions had stopped progress in disarmament which benefited Baghdad.

Baghdad children's hospital
Patients suffer most during sweltering summer months
Mr Butler also answered critics of "western double standards" towards Arab states and Israel, which like Iraq has invaded its neighbours and maintains a WMD arsenal.

He agreed there was a double standard, and Israel's nuclear weapons had been a "source of very great difficulty" when it came to Unscom's work.

"In the last chapter of my book I make very clear that as we move towards nuclear disarmament as we must that Israel's weapons have to be put on the table," he said.

Mr Butler retired from Unscom in 1999 and is now Diplomat in Residence at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

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01 Mar 00 | Middle East
UN's new Iraq arms chief
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08 Feb 00 | Middle East
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