Letter: Sanctions hit Iraqis but help Saddam

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Sir: Eric Berman (letter, 25 January) may be director of UN Watch, but he cannot have read the recent reports of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the World Health Organisation and Unicef on the continuing effect of sanctions on the Iraqi population.

To argue that the UN Security Council has acted "with humane understanding" is injudicious. The criteria for the lifting of sanctions have repeatedly changed, and this has resulted in their prolongation for six-and-a-half years. In this period, 750,000 people have perished through lack of medicines and malnutrition.

Mr Berman is mistaken in assuming that the partial lifting of sanctions currently under way will bring notable improvement. Only $1.06bn of the food-for-oil revenue over a six-month period can go on food and medical supplies. For the 18 million Iraqis under government rule, this amounts to $9 per person per month. Before the Gulf crisis, Iraq imported two- thirds of its food; a recent UN report found Iraq would need $2.2bn every six months just to feed its population.

Even more serious is the fact that only $17m may go on essential infrastructure, such as chemicals for sewage treatment or parts for water pumping equipment. Most of the child deaths since August 1990 have been due to the inadequate sanitation system left after Allied bombings during the Gulf war. Mr Berman blames the continuation of sanctions on the refusal of the Iraqi leadership to destroy all the weapons the Security Council demands. However, international law is not made at the behest of the Security Council, and the states of the world did not sign up to a global tyranny. The powers of the Security Council were conferred upon it by the Charter of the UN, which recognises in Article 51 the "inherent" right of states to possess weapons.