Letter: Iraq's dead children

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Sir: The British government's response to the recent Unicef report on Iraq - that we bear no responsibility for the deaths of some half a million children since 1990 ("Children pay price for Iraq blockade", 13 August) - only holds so long as one ignores the numerous reports by the UN secretary general, the UN Humanitarian panel on Iraq, and the text of the Unicef report itself.

The Government hopes we will infer that the higher mortality rates in the Iraqi-controlled areas compared with in the North (overseen by the UN) are due to deliberate acts of the Iraqi regime, cynically causing deprivation for propaganda purposes.

However, Anupama Singh, Unicef's representative in Baghdad, has said that the fact that the UN has a direct role in the northern provinces does not account for the difference in child mortality. Many aid agencies have been providing added relief for Kurds since 1991, and the oil for food deal in the North includes a vital cash component enabling greater efficiency of relief programmes.

Kofi Annan's reports also indicate that the North receives a proportionally greater amount of the oil for food revenues.

The Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, has said: "We have no evidence there is a conscious withholding of medicines ordered by the [Iraqi] government."

By the evidence of every agency involved, the US and UK are deliberately perpetuating a situation that is killing thousands of infants in order to destabilise the leadership of that state.

There is no moral or legal justification for linking these deadly non- military sanctions to the problem of weapons inspection.


Enfield, Middlesex