Global Policy Forum

UN Says Only Three Iraq Flights Not Approved


By William M. Reilly

United Press International
October 19, 2000

Only three recent "humanitarian" flights to Iraq were without authorization, a sanctions committee spokesman said Thursday, despite several claims by nations of having contravened a Security Council air embargo.

"What comes in on planes is a miniscule part," of the humanitarian program, said the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Tun Myat, who was visiting headquarters. "There have been a lot of inordinate attacks on the flights. Humanitarian flights have always been permitted. The question at issue is whether or not you need approval, whether or not you need specific approval."

The committee spokesman, Peter Mollema of the Netherlands mission to the United Nations, told United Press International that French and Russian trips in August and Wednesday's Syrian flight, had not been authorized.

"Syria has not sought authorization nor notification" for the latest flight he said, adding that as for the others, "all followed procedure and had not left before authorization" by the committee, chaired by Netherlands Ambassador Peter Van Walsum.

The Syrian flight Mollema referred to meant that well over two dozen planes have flown to Saddam International Airport since it reopened in August. It carried a delegation from Syria's Agriculture Syndicate as a continuing sign of improving relations between Iraq and neighboring Syria and was the third Syrian plane to land in Baghdad this month. Van Walsum says since he took over chairmanship of the committee in January 1999, he has treated each "communication" regarding a humanitarian flight to Iraq as a "request for authorization," as did his predecessors, regardless of what the communication was called by the country sending it. He also previously told reporters that when more time was needed to process a "communication," he asked the nations involved to allow more time, which most nations did. The Dutch envoy said most flights were automatically approved by the committee under a 24-hour "no-objection" rule, anyway. Myat, the humanitarian coordinator of the so-called oil-for-food program, called it "second to none," despite criticism and "holds" put on possible dual-use items. Out of a $33 billion program, holds have been placed on just over $2 billion in goods.

"Under the new diet plan, 2,270 kilo-calories are being made available every day to every man, woman and child in the country," Myat told reporters. "Food gets to everybody it is supposed to." However, the coordinator said, "The fact is they have become so poor they cannot afford to eat the food they have been given for free.

"Sale of the food is income," he said. "To sustain livelihood they sell food to buy clothes or hats. You need more than food to live." Myat listed water, good sanitation, health care, even electricity as necessary.

Asked about reports of luxury items entering Iraq for the elite, he replied, "There is whiskey and everything else that comes into the country, but the money does not come from the Oil for Food program. OFF is very heavily regulated," he said, adding, "Iraq has its own sources of income." He did not elaborate.

More Information on Civilian Flights to Iraq
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq


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