- The Washington Times - Friday, January 19, 2001

NEW YORK Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is leaving hundreds of millions of dollars for health care and other urgent needs unspent at the same time he complains about the impact of sanctions, a U.N. official said.
The director of the world body's humanitarian program for Iraq expressed "grave concern" over the Baghdad government's failure to spend money allotted for medicines, water and sanitation.
Under humanitarian exemptions to the decade-old U.N. sanctions regime, Iraq is allowed to spend oil revenue on U.N.-approved contracts for humanitarian goods and services.
"I am gravely concerned … with regard to the unacceptable slow rate of submission of applications, in particular under the health, education, water and sanitation, as well the oil sectors," Benon Sevan wrote Wednesday in a letter to the chairman of the sanctions committee.
"Despite all the concerns expressed regarding the nutritional and health status of the Iraqi people," he said, the government had submitted health-sector contracts worth $84 million when it has more than $624 million to spend.
He did note approvingly that requests for food-related items had exceeded the $1.5 billion allocation, and those were approved by the sanctions committee "in a very timely manner."
U.N. officials have repeatedly noted that the overall heath crisis in Iraq is worsening each year, as malnutrition spreads.
As the situation becomes increasingly desperate, many Arab and European nations have urged the incoming Bush administration to lighten or lift the embargo.
A vocal minority within the United States opposes sanctions as well. Police arrested a dozen protesters outside the U.S. Mission to the United Nations on Tuesday.
Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell repeated during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday that the sanctions should be "reinvigorated."
Under U.N. resolutions, imposed after the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Iraq may not export oil or import any items that could, potentially, advance Iraq's suspected weapons programs.
The sanctions will not be lifted until the U.N. weapons inspectors are satisfied that Iraq is free of proscribed chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.


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