Januarry, 27, 2000

BAGHDAD ( - "This is a massacre of
innocents, a tragedy which concerns the whole world," said
Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid of Babylon of the Chaldeans
about a report recently issued by the Iraq health ministry.

According to the Health Ministry, which compared the
mortality rate in December 1989 (before the 1990 UN embargo
on Iraq) with that of December 1999, more than 8,000
children were killed by the embargo in the last month of
the 20th century; the lack of medicine and food caused by
the embargo strikes in particular the weakest, children,
and elderly; and there has been a frightening increase in
the infant mortality rate.

One hundred one children under five who died of dysentery
in December 1989, while in 1999 they were 1,576. In the
same age group, children who died of malnourishment rose
from 81 to 3060 and children who died of pneumonia rose
from 117 to 3,372.

Although not so numerous, the increase in the number of
deaths of people over fifty is still appalling, according
to the patriarch. In December 1989, 91 died of illness
connected with high blood pressure; in December 1999, 594
died of the same cause. People who died of diabetes
increased from 82 to 831, and people who died of cancer
also increased from 347 to 1913.

"The health ministry figures are substantially confirmed by
inquiries made by United Nations commissioners who visit
hospitals. These deaths are the strongest proof which
should move the world to take action to do something
against the embargo," the patriarch said.

The patriarch also commented on the proposal to appoint
Hans Blix to head the new UN commission to monitor Iraq's
disarmament: "I have never met Blix but France's opposition
to the appointment of Rolf Ekeus and the support of Paris,
Moscow, and Beijing for Blix, would make me think that he
is a reliable person." Ekeus' candidacy as head of the UN
mission was rejected by France, Russia, and China.

Patriarch Bidawid returned to the subject of the canceled
papal visit to Ur of Chaldea: "I still keep hoping. The
visit has been postponed until who knows when. But I am
sure that the prayers of the whole world and the Holy
Father's determination will not be disappointed."