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Senior UN Officials Protest UN Sanctions On Iraq




For Immediate Release Contact: Erik Gustafson

February 16, 2000 (202) 543-6176

Washington, DC - Following the protest resignations of two high-ranking UN relief officials in Iraq, over fifty national organizations held a joint press conference with Members of Congress to call for an end to the economic sanctions on Iraq.

Expressing urgency over a situation where UN humanitarian efforts have failed to prevent a tragic rise in infant mortality in Iraq, House Democratic Whip David E. Bonior (D-MI) urged President Clinton to lift the economic embargo on Iraq. "The children of Iraq are the real victims of our economic sanctions against Iraq," said Rep. Bonior. "It's high time we recognize that this embargo hasn't hurt Saddam Hussein but millions of innocent civilians."

Representatives David Bonior (D-MI), Tom Campbell (R-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), Jack Metcalf (R-WA), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Ed Royce (R-CA) and 64 other Members of Congress sent a letter to the president calling for the lifting of economic sanctions that have been in place against Iraq since 1991. "Our message is simple. We're saying: millions of children are suffering and we refuse to close our eyes to the slaughter of innocents," Rep. Bonior said.

A growing number of prominent organizations and Members of Congress view the U.S. Administration's insistence on comprehensive sanctions as a "policy on auto-pilot" that has already created a disaster. Between 1991 and 1998, UNICEF estimates that half a million children died as a result of the economic sanctions.

At the press conference, Congressman Dennis Kucinich declared, "Economic sanctions strengthen the Iraqi regime by unjustly targeting the Iraqi people." Reports by public health experts like Prof. Richard Garfield of Columbia confirm that per capita income has dropped from $250 per month in 1989 to less than $100 per month today. Even with monthly supplement under the "Oil-for-Food Program," the majority of the Iraqi people remain in desperate poverty. Severe hardships and scarcity, compounded by the collapse of public services, has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades.

Creating an embarrassment for the Clinton Administration, this week the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Hans von Sponeck, and the head of the World Food Program in Iraq, Jutta Burghardt, quit the "Oil-for-Food" Program to protest the suffering caused by the international embargo. According to an unconfirmed report leaked from the UN Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq (UNOHCI), a dozen or more UN humanitarian workers are rumored to have joined Hans von Sponeck and are resigning from their posts.

Erik Gustafson, EPIC's Director and a Gulf War veteran, remarked, "We fear that Hans von Sponeck's replacement may be a political appointee, resulting from U.S. pressure to silence any concerns about the negative impact of sanctions. We, at EPIC, commend Mr. von Sponeck, Mr. Halliday, and Ms. Burghardt for their exemplary humanitarian efforts in Iraq and for leading the world in questioning the continued policy of sanctions against Iraq."

Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC) 747 10th Street, SE - Suite # 2, Washington, DC 20003 tel. (202) 543-6176 - fax (202) 543-0725

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