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Letter: Iraqis killed by sanctions

Sir: I applaud your publicity of the outrage of continued British arms sales to Indonesia. May I highlight another issue, at least as serious which is receiving little attention and to which the "ethical" foreign policy of New Labour should be addressed. I refer to the continued economic sanctions on Iraq. This is a particular responsibility of Britain as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

At the beginning of August the sanctions, imposed six months before the start of the 1991 Gulf war, will have existed for a full seven years. The facts, derived mainly from UN sources, are not in dispute. The World Food Programme reported in 1995 that four million people, a fifth of Iraq's population, were starving because of sanctions. Unicef reported in 1997 that under-five mortality was 5,600 a month and rising.

Ramsey Clark, the former US Attorney General, estimates that sanctions have so far killed more than 1.5 million innocent civilians, including 750,000 children. Madeleine Albright, now US Secretary of State, agreed (CBS 60 Minutes, 12 May, 1996) that sanctions had by then killed 500,000 children. She said: "We think the price is worth it", in support of US policy.

The UN Genocide Convention condemns "deliberately inflicting on a group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part". The Protocol 1 Addition (1977) to the Geneva Convention declares that the "starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited".

It is easy to demonstrate, from UN documents themselves, that the so- called "food for oil" SC resolution 986 is totally inadequate as a means of addressing the years-long suffering of the Iraqi people. It cannot be right to inflict genocide on an entire generation of Iraqi children as a way of punishing the tyrant under whom they are forced to live.


Stockport, Cheshire

The writer is author of `The Scourging of Iraq' (1996)