Letter: Strike on Iraq

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As an agency devoted to justice, peace and development the Catholic Institute for International Relations deplores the present escalation towards military action against Iraq.

Our development programmes in the region are still dealing with the damaging effects of the war in the Gulf in 1991. For its neutral stance at that time Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, suffered severe economic deprivation, which greatly affected its capacity to develop. Up to one million migrant Yemeni workers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf were expelled from their places of work. Many of the long-term migrants were homeless, and destitute and set up shanty towns on the outskirts of the coastal city, Hodeidah, stretching already under-resourced health and social services beyond their limited capacity. The remittances from migrant workers, a mainstay of household economy, were lost, pushing many into poverty. Much western aid was cut off, and has yet to be fully reinstated.

If the bombing of Iraq goes ahead the implications for development in the region are severe. The human cost and the infrastructural damage could be immense. The standing of Britain and of UK-based development agencies will be greatly damaged.

We urge the British government to listen to the countries in the region, to listen to their European allies, and to the peace and development agencies here, to use its "special relations" with the US to persuade them to look seriously for negotiated solutions to the present crisis.

DENIS HAWES

Catholic Institute for International Relations

London N1

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