- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Iraq’s U.N. ambassador on Monday urged the United Nations to commemorate yearly the anniversary of a chemical weapons attack by Saddam Hussein’s government that he called the largest against civilians in history.

Saddam ordered the attack on the city of Halabja on March 16, 1988, as part of a scorched-earth campaign to crush a Kurdish rebellion in the north, which was seen as aiding Iran in the final months of its war with Iraq.

An estimated 5,600 people were killed _ the vast majority of them Kurds _ in the nerve and mustard gas attacks. Many survivors still suffer from the aftereffects.

“Today, more than 20 years later, we remember the innocent victims of Halabja chemical attacks with the hope that the continual efforts at progress of the world community will ensure that atrocities like these will not be committed again,” Iraq’s U.N. Ambassador Hamid Al Bayati told a U.N. commemoration of the 21st anniversary of the attack.

Al Bayati said there are worries the attack may have a lasting genetic impact on the Kurds.

“The rate of cancers, and miscarriages and birth defects has increased in Halabja compared with the rest of Kurdistan or the rest of Iraqi areas,” he said.

“I will call on the international community, especially the U.N., to commemorate this day every year to make it the day of genocide, the day of chemical weapons used against the people of Kurdistan _ and to remind the world every year that such kind of attack by chemical and other kind of gases should be studied to see the effect of these kind of weapons,” Al Bayati said.

He said the effects of chemical weapons should be studied not only in people but in animals, plants and in the soil “because I think it will be contaminated for a long time to come.”

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