Letter: Targeting aid where it is needed most

Sir: The paradox at the heart of the United Nations is even more profound than your leading article of 16 July suggests. It is the belief, implicit in the UN's charter, that the nation and the state are synonymous. They are not.

All over the world there are peoples who think of themselves as nations who find themselves confined within, or divided between, states that they experience as oppressive. The Kurds, the Tamils of Sri Lanka and the Albanians of Kosovo, are among them. Since the UN prohibits itself from interfering in the internal affairs of member states, it is powerless to redress these problems, even if it had the means or the will to do so. So long as the international community continues to think of the nation and the state as one and the same, so long will the bloody and intractable civil wars continue.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN PERCIVAL

London, SW15

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