Letter: Humanity for Iraq

Sir: I have recently returned from Baghdad, where for one-and- a-half years it was my job to report the progress of the humanitarian Oil for Food programme.

Ministers and senior members of the Opposition frequently state that the Iraqi leadership have diverted supplies under this programme. This is a serious error.

Some 150 international observers, travelling throughout Iraq, reported to the United Nations Multidisciplinary Observer Unit, of which I was the head. At no time was any diversion recorded. I made this clear in our reports to the UN Secretary General, and he reported in writing to the Security Council accordingly.

In the case of private donations outside the Oil for Food programme, those which arrived by air were observed by us, and no diversion was recorded. Humanitarian supplies arriving by road were not within our remit, although my contact with the Iraqi Red Crescent, which has a co-ordination role, would suggest no diversion.

With regard to private medical donations, again nothing directly to do with the Oil for Food programme, there has sometimes been confusion. All supplies, in accordance with international practice, should have been vetted before distribution by the government testing authority, Kimadia. (Some suppliers, in ignorance, tried to avoid this). I know of more than one occasion when outdated medicines arrived, and Kimadia was naturally reluctant for them to be distributed.

Bombing Iraq is a matter of the utmost seriousness, in particular in view of the civilian casualties. It is imperative at the very least that our facts are correct.

MICHAEL STONE

Polruan,

Cornwall

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