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U.N. says Baghdad chief to resume work

November 2, 1999

By Hassan Hafidh

BAGHDAD, Nov 2 - The United Nations confirmed on Tuesday that its humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, would return to his post on Friday after a report that the United States and Britain wanted him fired.

"Von Sponeck is on a routine visit to the U.N. headquarters in New York and he has been asked to return to Baghdad and he will be returning on Friday," George Somerwill, spokesman of the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, told Reuters.

The London Financial Times earlier quoted senior western diplomats as saying the United States and Britain were pushing for von Sponeck's dismissal, but Secretary-General Kofi Annan was believed to have resisted their demands and told him to stay on for another year.

Von Sponeck, a German, has drawn criticism from Washington and London for advocating an end to the nine-year-old U.N. sanctions imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Iraqi newspapers last week reported that von Sponeck had been recalled to New York because of comments he made on sanctions and might be fired.

The sanctions will not be lifted until the U.N. accounts for all Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Security Council members are deadlocked on how to ease the embargoes in exchange for Iraq allowing arms inspectors back into the country.

Von Sponeck urged Security Council members last week to separate relief issues for ordinary Iraqis from the political issue of disarmament.

"One should try to delink the humanitarian discussion from the disarmament discussion," he said. "And if you do that, maybe you can introduce a longer-term vision into this whole business of how 23 million Iraqi are being treated."

Baghdad accused the U.S. and British representatives at the U.N. sanctions committee of deliberately delaying its humanitarian purchases while Washington accused President Saddam Hussein of refusing to distribute the goods.

Von Sponeck is the fifth coordinator of the so-called "oil- for-food" programme under which Baghdad is allowed to sell $5.26 billion worth of crude oil over six months to buy food, medicine and other supplies to ease the impact of the sanctions.

His predecessor, Denis Halliday, resigned last year because of clashes with his New York-based superiors. Halliday was outspoken about U.N. sanctions, saying they were incompatible with the U.N. charter.

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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