Letter: Iraq sanctions

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The Independent Culture
Sir: While I do not wish to get into a detailed debate with Mr Pilger about his article "The world's worst terrorists are based in Washington" (Review, 25 August), I must point out that there were some serious factual errors relating to the Iraq sanctions regime.

Firstly, it is important to emphasise that food and medicines have never been subject to sanctions. UN Security Council Resolution 661 exempts "supplies intended strictly for medical purposes and... foodstuffs" and Resolution 687 extends this exemption to "materials and supplies for essential civilian needs". It is quite clear that the import into Iraq of baby food, enriched powdered milk and vital hospital equipment is not in any way prevented by the sanctions regime. Indeed, given Saddam's refusal to provide for his own people, the UN set up the oil-for-food programme which ensures that such items are sent to Iraq.

Secondly, I must point out that sanctions are not the cause of the Iraqi people's plight. Sanctions, which were introduced following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990, are aimed at the Iraqi regime and not at the people. When first imposed they aimed to encourage Iraq to withdraw its forces from Kuwait. All that Saddam has to do in order to have sanctions lifted is to comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Given Saddam's profligate expenditure on numerous luxurious presidential palaces since the Gulf War, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that he has deliberately taken a cynical decision to allow the Iraqi people to starve in order to increase the pressure on the international community to give in and lift sanctions. I regret that Mr Pilger has been taken in by the Iraqi regime's propaganda.

JOHN SPELLAR

Under-Secretary of State for Defence

Ministry of Defence

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