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Howard's End: Defying The UN, Iraq Hosts The World

Defying no fly rules, British and American bombing and UN sanctions, international politicians and business delegations attended the biggest trade fair Iraq has held since1995. John Howard's brother was at the packed trade fair.

Private and commercial aircraft carrying politicians and business delegations from as far away as Ireland, Germany, France, Spain and Scandinavian countries, touched down at Bahgdad's Saddam International airport last week for the biggest annual trade fair since Iraq started trading again in 1995.

Aircraft were evident from Turkey, Lebanon, Russia and the United Arab Emirates who all carried officials and business delegations.

The flight from Ireland was the first to Baghdad since 1991.

Iran, long at odds with Iraq, also had a trade pavilion which seemed to surprise some business people given the feeling in the West that Iran and Iraq are sworn long-term enemies.

The flight from Russia was a huge Tu-154 that arrived from Moscow with more than fifty MP's and businessmen led by, Pytor Romanov, the Deputy Speaker of the Duma. (Parliament)

The presence of the Russian plane offered overwhelming evidence that the permanent members of the UN security council, including China and France, are growing tired of America's and Britain’s continuing war against Iraq.

Earlier Iraq and Russia had negotiated the resumption of charter flights which would be a violation of the flight ban and two no-fly zones established by the West after the invasion of Kuwait. Trade fair participants were not concerned about the bans.

Many of the delegations bought medicines for Iraqi children intended as a symbolic gesture against the sanctions which many believe are repugnant.

What is driving the sudden renewed enthusiasm for Iraq is the chance for businesses throughout Europe to secure lucrative contracts linked to high oil prices. Iraq will pump $24 billion of oil this year under the UN oil-for-food programme.

This feeling seems coupled to the UN's recent agreement to allow Iraq to be paid in the European currency, the Euro, instead of the US dollar. The Euro currency payments for Iraqi oil are scheduled to start today. (NZ Time)

Some Iraqi opponents of Saddam Hussein see the trade fair as a cynical ploy to overturn the sanctions without making concessions over arms inspections by appealing to western greed.

Business interests in Britain and the US are likely to start putting pressure on their government's to stop bombing Iraq and lift sanctions when they see others making potentially enormous profits by trading with Baghdad.

There seems to be a feeling, certainly within Europe and parts of the Middle East, that the days of American and British dominance in world affairs is ending and a paradigm shift in global power is taking place.

But it's not only business people and politicians who have been rushing to Iraq in recent weeks. Entertainers, academics, and top sports people from the Arab world have been visiting Baghdad to show solidarity with Saddam Hussein for his support of the Palestinian cause.

Recently, flights have been coming into Iraq with Palestinian wounded.

And the Jordanian Prime Minister, Ali Abu al-Ragheb, also flew into Baghdad last week with more than 100 journalists and officials to promote goodwill between the two countries - even as US and British aircraft launched their latest attack on targets inside Iraq.

This visit, and those of the business and political delegations, came as Britain and the US launched a counter-offensive to try and bolster support for their hardline position against Iraq.

UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, also appeared to undermine the British and US position earlier this year when he recognised the "moral dilemma" posed by sanctions - the impact on the health or ordinary Iraqi's and children in particular.

Annan said at the time the UN was in danger of losing the 'propaganda war, if we haven't lost it already' He is also concerned by a report from UNICEF that detailed the harm being done to Iraqi children by the UN sanctions.

Some angry members of Western delegations at the Iraqi trade fair were apparently saying, 'stuff the UN, it's a waste of time and propaganda is not its purpose.'

Indeed, it is not, and it seems to me that since the formation of the UN the world has never known more war, conflict and poverty.

It also seems that Britain and whomever wins the US presidential election, will have to make some real and meaningful efforts to get back some credibility on the international stage. First, they could stop bombing people.


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