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Saturday, April 25, 1998 Published at 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK

World: Middle East

High profile US-aid to Iraq

Val Kilmer brings Hollywood glamour to the operation

An American disaster relief charity, AmeriCares, is sending the first aid consignment to be sent from the United States to Iraq since the Gulf War.

The Vice-Chairman of the charity, Guy Smith, said the mission is not concerned with international politics or governments, rather, it is a humanitarian projected that aims to relieve suffering among ordinary Iraqi people.

[ image:  ]
The charity says it has assurances from Iraq that the aid supplies will go only to civilians, and that the military will have no access to them.

The Hollywood actor Val Kilmer is accompanying the consignment, consisting of medicine, baby food and other supplies.

"I didn't have any hesitation at all. The mission is a humanitarian one, and is really reflective of AmeriCares' style, which doesn't take on issues of politics," he said.

Mr Kilmer, along with other volunteers will personally deliver the supplies to ensure they reach their destination.

AmeriCares is active in disaster aid relief in more than 110 countries around the world.

Iraq 'adamant on breaking sanctions'

But there is little sign of improved relations between Iraq and the United Nations.

An official Iraqi newspaper reported on Saturday that Iraq will break UN sanctions this year if the Security Council does not lift the embargo imposed after Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in 1990.

"We are adamant on breaking the embargo this year if it is not lifted by the Security Council," said an editorial in the government daily al-Jumhouriya .

"America and others have to choose between lifting the embargo or storms that are impossible to control, like past events have proven, which will get rid of all the putrid symbols," it said.

[ image: Bill Richardson: sanctions will not be lifted]
Bill Richardson: sanctions will not be lifted
On Wednesday, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz urged Arab states to break the embargo collectively.

Meanwhile, the UN has reiterated that sanctions will not be lifted until Iraq fully complies with Security Council resolutions.

"The sanctions will not be lifted," said Bill Richardson, the US Ambassador to the UN.

"There's been some progress on the access issue. But on disarmament, and accounting for biological and other weapons, there's been a lack of progress," he said.

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