Letter: Time to help Iraq

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The Independent Online
NOW THAT, for a while at least, the threat of British military intervention in Iraq has receded, attention should turn urgently to the long-term prospects for the country.

The effect of current UN sanctions on the civilian population is counter- productive and indefensible. Allowing the people of Iraq to suffer malnutrition and poor health is like refusing food and medicine to the passengers in a hijacked plane, but it is not the only effect. Little has been said about the educational damage being inflicted on the country, though this is serious. The existence of sanctions has also fostered the illicit plundering of major archaeological sites and the export of important antiquities.

Despite official statements, the humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions are being undermined by deliberately harsh interpretation and obstructive administration. This is unjustifiable and impolitic, and must cease. In the short term it cannot be impossible for the UN to maintain intensive and sustained monitoring of imports of military weapons and materials, while enabling the necessary emergency programme to get medicine and food to the population.

In the long term, change for the better in Iraq will only come from within the country. Let us release the population from their fight for survival and allow them to recover their former civilised standards of health, nutrition and education. At present we are creating a giant Gaza strip, with untold dangers for the future.

Professor AKBAR AHMED

Selwyn College, Cambridge

PATRICK COLLINSON

Regius Professor Emeritus in Modern History, University of Cambridge

Dr G C HARCOURT

Jesus College, Cambridge

Professor CLIVE HOLES

Oriental Institute, University of Oxford

Dr CAROLINE HUMPHREY

King's College, Cambridge

TARIF KHALIDI

Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic, University of Cambridge

Professor NICHOLAS LASH

Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge

Dr.AUGUSTA McMAHON

Newnham College, Cambridge

Dr JOHN MILBANK

Reader in Philosophical Theology, University of Cambridge

NICHOLAS POSTGATE

Professor of Assyriology, University of Cambridge

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