Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

U.N. Official Discusses His Resignation over Cruel Sanctions against Iraq

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

U.N. Official Discusses His Resignation over Cruel Sanctions against Iraq

Article excerpt

U.N. OFFICIAL DISCUSSES HIS RESIGNATION OVER CRUEL SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ

Hans von Sponeck, former U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, told a Washington, DC audience on May 3 why he had recently resigned from his position in Baghdad. Introduced by National Association of Arab-Americans/American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee vice president Khalil Jahshan, Von Sponeck explained that the U.N.'s sanctions against Iraq were so onerous that he could not in good conscience lend his name any longer to the suffering being inflicted on the Iraqi people.

Von Sponeck explained that Iraq's annual per capita income in 1989 was something over $3,000. The amount of food coming through to the Iraqi people under the U.N. sanctions comes to $2.9 billion for a population of 23 million. So, on average, the amount per person was $252 a year. From being a fairly affluent society, Iraq is now in desperate poverty comparable to that of Haiti or Sierra Leone.

The retired United Nations career official refuted press charges, especially in the American media, that the Iraqi government (read Saddam Hussain) was hoarding food and medicine for profit on the black market. In fact, he said, on average 91.7 percent of food and related items approved by the U.N. and received in Iraq are distributed, while 72 percent of medicines are distributed. The figures on both food and medicine are reckoned to be "absolutely adequate" by persons familiar with the goods involved and the local circumstances. He said the United Nations in Baghdad had "no evidence" that items were being held back by Saddam Hussain.

Dr. Von Sponeck, a German national with 30 years' experience in the United Nations Development Program, described Iraqi schools as pathetically underfinanced. In 1989 the government's budget for schools was the equivalent of about $3 billion a year. Now it is barely one-tenth of that. …

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