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Tuesday, August 4, 1998 Published at 05:25 GMT 06:25 UK

World: Middle East

Sick Iraqi girl flies into Britain

George Galloway MP arrives at Heathrow with Mariam and her grandmother

A four-year-old Iraqi girl has arrived in Britain for leukaemia treatment amid claims that she is being used as a pawn by the Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Mariam Hamza's trip was arranged by British Labour MP George Galloway, who says she is just one of thousands of Iraqi children dying because of United Nations sanctions imposed at the end of the 1991 Gulf War.

But Iraqi opposition groups have accused President Hussein of using Mariam's case to blackmail western governments into lifting the sanctions, which prevent him from rebuilding his weapons arsenal.

The Iraqi National Congress, which opposes Saddam Hussein's regime, said Mr Galloway and the British Foreign Office - which waived visa requirements to enable the girl's visit - had allowed themselves to be used by the Iraqi leader in a "media stunt".

[ image: Ann Clwyd: believes Galloway is being used]
Ann Clwyd: believes Galloway is being used
Mr Galloway's Labour colleague, Ann Clwyd MP, added that UN sanctions allowed Iraq to receive medical supplies.

"I suspect Saddam Hussein is playing a very cunning game and that George Galloway is playing straight into his hands," she said.

The flight carrying Mariam, her grandmother and Mr Galloway from the Jordanian capital Amman touched down at London's Heathrow airport on Wednesday evening.

Mariam had earlier been airlifted from Baghdad after the UN agreed to lift temporarily its "no fly" sanctions on Iraq. She is due to go to a specialist hospital in Glasgow on Thursday.

Galloway attacks sanctions

After landing in London Mr Galloway insisted sanctions made Mariam and other sick Iraqis suffer unnecessarily.

George Galloway: "I'm against all potentates and all their palaces"
"It is the sanctions that meant she had no clean sheets on her bed because bed sheets are banned under sanctions," he said.

"She had no clean floors and walls in her hospital because detergent is banned under sanctions. Her doctors had no pencils because pencils are banned under sanctions."

Mr Galloway added: "Let me make it clear. She is a victim of the regime.

"Her parents never elected the Iraqi regime and they cannot remove the Iraqi regime.

"So she is a victim of the Iraqi regime, but she is a victim twice. She is a victim of the Iraqi regime and she is a victim of our policy."

Warning about President Hussein

Nabeel Musawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress, said that it was President Hussein's regime which was starving Iraqis of medical supplies.

[ image: Saddam Hussein: sanctions on regime]
Saddam Hussein: sanctions on regime
"Before sanctions were introduced, Iraq used to spend about $3bn a year on food and medicine imported from abroad. Under the oil-for-food deal, Saddam is allowed to import $10.4bn worth - more than three times more - but he refuses to do so.

"Lifting the sanctions would simply mean diverting the funds into Saddam's coffers and he would use it to buy weapons."

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15 Apr 98 | Middle East
MP flies sick Iraqi girl to UK

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