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U.N. Rights Body Calls for Lifting Iraq Embargo

18 August 2000

Stephanie Nebehay

Geneva (Reuters) - A U.N. human rights body called on Friday for the lifting of 10-year-old sanctions on Iraq, saying they had condemned an innocent people to hunger, disease, ignorance and even death.

The United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights also adopted a separate resolution urging states to reconsider their support for economic sanctions in general if they failed to bring about the desired changes in policy.

The sub-commission, composed of 26 human rights experts named by their respective governments to serve in a personal capacity, adopted the two resolutions without a vote on the final day of their annual three- week meeting in Geneva.

It was the fourth year in a row that the body dealt with the controversial issue of Iraqi sanctions.

This week's debate became heated after Belgian's member called the sanctions ``unequivocally illegal'' which had caused a humanitarian disaster ``comparable to the worst catastrophes of the past decades.''

The resolution proposed by Morocco's representative urged all governments, including that of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein, to alleviate the Iraqi people's suffering by facilitating the delivery of food and medical supplies.

Iraq has been under an international economic and trade embargo since its August 1990 invasion of oil-rich Kuwait.

Oil-For-Food Deal Not Meeting All Needs -- Report

The text said statistics issued by the U.N. oil-for-food program, which since December 1996 has allowed Iraq to sell limited quantities of oil to buy food, medicine and other essentials, showed the deal was meeting ``only part of the vital needs of the population.''

It noted with concern that ``the standard of living, nutrition and health of the population were continuing to deteriorate and that all economic activities were seriously affected, particularly in the areas of drinking water supply, electricity and agriculture.''

The Iraq resolution invoked the 1949 Geneva Conventions which it said ``prohibit the starving of civilian populations and the destruction of what is indispensable to their survival.''

In the second resolution, put forward by Norway's member, the Sub-Commission urged states to reconsider their support for sanctions ``even when legitimate goals pursued have not yet been achieved, if, after a reasonable period, the measures have not brought about the desired changes in policy.''

It urged states to seek ``prompt termination of all aspects of sanctions regimes that adversely affect human rights.''

On Thursday, the United States hit out angrily at the Belgian's report. George Moose, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told the forum that his claim that the sanctions were illegal was ``incorrect, biased and inflammatory.''

``The United States has worked hard to ensure that the welfare of the Iraqi people is protected, in stark contrast to the appalling behavior of an Iraqi regime which has shown itself to be completely insensitive to the suffering of its own people,'' Moose told the Sub-Commission.

The United States strongly opposes any lifting of the sanctions which have now entered their 11th year, and maintains that Saddam is responsible for the suffering of his people.

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