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Greens support government shift on Iraq sanctions

The Green Party welcomed the government's announcement that it wants to reduce the civilian suffering caused by sanctions on Iraq, less than one week after the Green's urged it to change its position.

Last week Green Party Defence and International Relations spokesperson Keith Locke wrote a column which was published in daily newspapers urging the government to rethink its positions on sanctions. Mr Locke also criticised briefing papers for the new government from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying New Zealand should "hold the line against pressure to lift sanctions to relieve the suffering of ordinary Iraqis".

Keith Locke is currently in Vietnam but Green co-leader Rod Donald congratulated Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff's acknowledgment of the human suffering caused by the current sanctions regime and the need for more focussed sanctions.

"The ordinary people of Iraq have suffered hugely as a result of UN sanctions imposed during the Gulf War. Infant mortality has doubled in the last year and 5,000 children die every month through malnurishment, disease, lack of food and medicine and the contamination of their water supplies," said Mr Donald.

"Hospitals in Iraq are being deprived of basic equipment and the school system is crumbling - leading to the complete deprivation of all Iraqis.

"Trying to punish Saddam Hussein by denying ordinary civilians their fundamental human rights is futile."

This afternoon Rod Donald met with Denis Halliday - the former co-ordinator of the UN Humanitarian Programmes who resigned over the Iraqi sanctions - and assured him of the Green Party's commitment to seeing the sanctions against civilians lifted.

In response to Mr Halliday's request the Green Party will also be asking the government to call for a temporary halt and rescheduling of Iraq's reparation payments to Kuwait until the humanitarian crisis is stabilised. Currently 30 per cent of all Iraqi revenue is chanelled into reparations.

Iraq also needs to have sovereignty over its income instead of the US and the UK strangling its economic revitalisation for political reasons, said Mr Donald. "The UN Security Council should put its efforts into ensuring Iraq doesn't obtain weapons of mass destruction instead of denying it the ability to look after its own people."

Rod Donald said that after years of inaction it was pleasing to see the new Foreign Minister Phil Goff responding to the situation in Iraq rapidly and decisively.

Ends

Rod Donald MP: 025 507 183 Jonathan Hill (press secretary): 04 470 6719, 021 110 1133


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