Milan Rai

The joint co-ordinator of <i>Voices in the Wilderness UK</i> responds to an article by the Foreign Office minister Peter Hain, who said we still need sanctions against Iraq
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The Independent Online

I've been to children's hospitals in Iraq on sanctions-breaking delegations, and I've seen the effects economic sanctions have had on ordinary families in Iraq. I've seen wards full of young children dying quietly of disease and malnutrition.

I've been to children's hospitals in Iraq on sanctions-breaking delegations, and I've seen the effects economic sanctions have had on ordinary families in Iraq. I've seen wards full of young children dying quietly of disease and malnutrition.

So I feel enormous anger when I read Peter Hain's lies and evasions ("It is as important as ever to keep Saddam Hussein in his cage", 7 August). Typical of his manoeuvres is his use of the fact that half of the anti-cancer drugs delivered to Iraq remain undelivered. Mr Hain blames "Saddam's policy". But he knows that the World Health Organisation blames the low distribution rate on "the recent arrival of a large volume of supplies and the long periods required for quality testing". On 1 June, 21.2 per cent were undergoing such tests.

Mr Hain also condemns the Iraqi government because in the autonomous, northern areas, where the UN administers Oil for Food, child death rates have been lower than in government-controlled Iraq. But he knows that Unicef says the difference in mortality rates "cannot be attributed to the differing ways the Oil for Food Program is implemented in the two parts of Iraq".

Mr Hain says there is no other way to stop Iraq building up "weapons of mass murder". But, as The Economist said in April, "If, year in, year out, the UN were systematically killing Iraqi children by air strikes, western governments would declare it intolerable. They should find their existing policy just as unacceptable. We must de-link the solution of the humanitarian crisis from the solution of the inspection crisis."

Resigning from his post as UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq, Denis Halliday said, "We are... destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral."

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