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Iraq says UK and US blocking cancer drugs

15 April 2002

Iraq says the United States and Britain are waging a campaign of genocide against its people by blocking medical supplies crucial to the treatment of cancer.

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said depleted uranium (DU) ammunition used by the U.S.-led forces during the 1991 Gulf War have caused a rise in cancer cases in Iraq. "The United States and Britain are engrossed in a policy of genocide against the people of Iraq and disregard the facts about their crimes of contaminating the environment of Iraq and its neighbouring countries," Sabri said in a copy of the letter faxed to Reuters last week.

"Their envoys to the (U.N.) Sanctions Committee are putting on hold contracts for medicines and medical equipment for the treatment of people with cancer, claiming they have dual usage," Sabri said.

He said he held the two countries responsible for "contaminating the environment in the centre and south of Iraq", saying "these effects will continue for generations to come."

"The catastrophic effects of the use of depleted uranium against Iraqi civilians... are reflected in the great rise in cancer cases, strange diseases and congenital deformities previously unknown in Iraq," Sabri said.

He attached to the letter a list of 21 contracts for medical supplies for treating cancer blocked by the United States and Britain.

"The United States and Britain bear a double responsibility by preventing the delivery of medicines and medical equipment to treat victims of the aggression they launched against Iraq in 1991," Sabri said.

He urged Annan to intervene and release those contracts on hold "so that specialised medical parties can begin the treatment of the victims of the crime of the use of depleted uranium."

Baghdad has insisted for years that there is a link between DU munitions and rising numbers of leukaemia cases and other cancers in Iraq. DU was first widely used in the Gulf War - declassified U.S. documents show that U.S. forces fired about 944,000 cigar-sized rounds against armour in Iraq and Kuwait.

A by-product of nuclear reactors, depleted uranium is used not for its radioactivity but to harden the tips of armour-piercing shells and gun rounds.

Last year, the World Health Organisation began an in-depth study into the health impact of the shells used in Iraq.

But in November, after lobbying from Washington, the U.N. General Assembly voted down an Iraqi proposal for a U.N.-backed study into the effects of depleted uranium shells.

A report by British Royal Society scientists published last month said top soil in areas heavily contaminated with DU should be removed and water quality monitored for contamination.

Rueters, Baghdad © 2002 Reuters News Service

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