U.S, group condemns "immoral' sanctions on Iraq

The Voices in The Wilderness

Fri, 12 Sep 97

AMMAN, September 11 (Reuters)A U.S. humanitarian group campaigning to ease the suffering 0f Iraqi civilians condemned on Thursday as "totally immoral" International trade sanctions on Baghdad.

The "Voices in the"Wilderness" group, which returned from Iraq after delivering $15,000 of medical supplies, said hospitals were critically short of supplies and most medicines were only avaiblable at prohibitive prices.

They said there was still little sign of medical suppllies which were supposed to be delivered under a U.N. oil-for-food deal implemented last December.

We felt total and utter helplessness," Chuck Quity, a member of the group just back from Baghdad, told Reuters.

The organisation which has made seven trips to Iraq since March 1996,says its members have been warned by US officials they risk imprisionment and fines for delivering goods to Iraq. without UN approval.

It has been waging a lonely campaign to raise awareness in the United States of the toll sanctions have taken on Iraq's population since they were imposed seven years ago. Quilty, citing a U.N. report two years ago which said the sanctions were responsible for the deaths of half a million Iraqis, said they were" immoral and border on genocide' Sanctions must stop lmmediately," said Catholic Bishop Tom Gumbleton, another member of the delegation."We have no justification to continue this war on the people of Iraq."

Under a deal with the United Nations Iraq has been allowed since December to sell $ 2 billion every six months, buying food and medicines with some of the proceeds.

Aid workers say the food is being distributed regularly but, nine month after the long delayed deal swang into action, barely any medical supplies have been delivered. They blame complicated procedures at the United Nations for aproving contracts and delays in transporting the medicine to Iraq.

" To me it's outrageous that they set up this mechanism for the sale..... and then ( U.S. Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright says it's all Saddam Hussein's fault that it's being delayed," Gumbbelton said.