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Programme highlights Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 15:31 GMT
Iraq sanctions to be eased
Iraqi boy in a Baghdad children's hospital
Critics say many Iraqis have died due to sanctions
Was the bombing of Iraqi defences last Friday carried out without the full knowledge of the Foreign Office?

Critics of the raids by British and American forces claim that Foreign Office ministers have been working on a plan to relax and refine sanctions.

This emerged in a written answer by Brian Wilson, who moved to the Foreign Office in the post-Mandelson re-shuffle. He told a Plaid Cymru MP that Britain was keen to find ways of easing the plight of ordinary Iraqis.

In particular, he suggested that if equipment for fighting cancer, and improving food-quality, was being unnecessarily held up by the UN sanctions committee, the government would look into the matter and make representations to the UN.

Twenty-four hours after the answer was published, British and American planes were in the air over Baghdad.

Suprise

Elfyn Llwyd, the MP who posed the question to Brian Wilson, told the World at One he had been encouraged by the reply he received, and thus even more surprised by the raids that followed so soon afterwards.

Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson: Dual track approach to dealing with Iraq
Neither Mr Llwyd, nor Labour Party critics of the bombing like Alan Simpson, regard Brian Wilson's reply as a full-blown change of direction by the foreign office.

It does, they believe, fit in with a wider international move for what are called 'smart sanctions', which are designed to hurt the economic and military establishment of the country - not the people.

The Independent newspaper, quoting British Government sources suggests that pressure for a change of emphasis has now become intense, in the face of the virulent opposition to the bombing raids around the world.

The aim would be to target Iraq's ruling elite, by means of travel restrictions an financial controls.

Lawrence Freedman, Professor of War Studies at King's College London, told the programme that there was a precedent for altering the sanctions regime in midstream - not least in Yugoslavia.

Bombing defended

In the meantime, however, British policy is tightly linked to that of the United States.

In this morning's Daily Telegraph the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, defended the bombing of installations around Baghdad and the exclusion-zone policy it supports.

He argues that the sanctions policy has kept Saddam Hussein's aggression in check: and further, that the Iraqi leader could easily relieve the suffering of his people if he were to use the billions of dollars Iraq earns in oil revenues.

This robust rejection to the idea that the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence might be out of line was reinforced by Brian Wilson when he spoke to the World at One.

He insisted that the Foreign Office had been kept fully informed about the military plans. And he maintained that the twin policies of sanctions and air-patrols were the only way to deal with Saddam.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Foreign Office minister Brian Wilson
explains whether the Foreign Office knew about the planned attack
Elfyn Llwyd MP, Plaid Cymru
On hearing of the bombings 24 hours after being assured sanctions would be eased
Prof Lawrence Freedman, King's College London
On what 'smart sanctions' are and how they would work
Links to more Programme highlights stories are at the foot of the page.


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