Letter: Heavy price of angering the US

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Sir: Simon Faulkner (letter, 9 August) is right to dub the sanctions regime against Iraq "barbaric". The United States is currently blocking dozens of food and medicine shipments to Iraq, allowable even under UN Resolution 986. I have in my possession a copy of a letter signed by David H Harmon, acting supervisor of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (US Treasury), in which he threatens aid workers illegally collecting and transporting medical relief supplies to the people of Iraq with "up to 12 years in prison and $1m in fines".

The blocking of civilian access to food and medicine, as a means of punishing "pariah" states, is now part of American policy, pursued through the United Nations where possible and unilaterally, through extraterritorial legislation, where not.

Apart from Iraq, Cuba is the most obvious victim. Through domestic law (primarily the 1992 Cuban Democracy Act and the 1996 Helms-Burton Act) the US is fostering malnutrition in the civilian population. The American Association for World Health, the US committee for the World Health Organisation, reported in March 1997 that US policy on Cuba was contributing to "serious nutritional defects, particularly among pregnant women ... food shortages were linked to a devastating outbreak of neuropathy numbering in the tens of thousands".

The US blockage on Cuban access to water-treatment chemicals and spare parts for water-supply systems has led to a "rising incidence of morbidity and mortality". Denied nausea-preventing drugs, 35 surveyed children in a cancer ward "were vomiting on average 28 to 30 times a day". The last UN General Assembly vote (October 1996) on US policy towards Cuba was 137 against and three for.

Washington worked hard to impose Iraq-style sanctions on Libya, via an extension of Security Council Resolution 748 (1992), but was frustrated by the European need for Libyan oil. The US urged total UN sanctions on North Korea in 1991. Here Iraq-style sanctions were blocked by the threat of a Chinese veto in the Security Council.

American foreign policy represents a multifaceted violation of the UN Genocide Convention (Articles II and III) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

GEOFF SIMONS

Stockport, Greater Manchester

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