Why Iraq must reject UN offer

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The Independent Online
From Ms F. A. Arbuthnot

Sir: Patrick Cockburn ("Saddam to show strength of his iron grip", 14 October) quotes a foreign diplomat as saying, regarding food shortages, that if the Iraqi regime "were really hard pressed they would have accepted the UN offer" of oil sales to meet food needs.

This much trailed red herring should be looked at in some detail:

1. Sales must be via Nato ally Turkey, requiring that oilfield facilities are extensively modernised at a cost of millions of dollars - to be taken out of the oil revenue to be released "for humanitarian purposes".

2. Turkey will receive "handling fees" for the distribution - also out of the revenue.

3. The UN will decide what food is needed and distribute it - a service that will also be paid for out of the revenues.

4. The UN Weapons Inspectorate - its flights, hotels, and satellite phone bills - are also to be recompensed out of the oil sales.

5. Reparation to Kuwait will be taken into account.

What is left will provide minimal aid and, arguably, will set a precedent: that it is all right for the UN to allow formerly largely developed, and now decimated, Iraq to scrape along at the bottom of the survival barrel.

Yesterday a friend, an American nurse who is an Arabic speaker and frequent streetwise visitor to Iraq, who has just returned, rang me:

The terrible thing is that the hospitals are now near empty, everyone knows there is no medicine, sick children are simply loved - and die - at home.

This is the real face of the tragedy which is Iraq, an embargo in the name of democracy that, according to one Unicef spokesman, is killing 9,000 children a month.

Yours faithfully,

Felicity Arbuthnot

London, E9

15 October