Global Policy Forum

World Food Programme Official

Agence France-Presse
February 15, 2000

Baghdad - A high-ranking UN agency official in Iraq resigned Tuesday, the second official to leave in the space of two days, apparently in protest at the impact of sanctions on ordinary Iraqis. The representative in Baghdad of the World Food Programme (WFP), Jutta Burghart, "has submitted a request for her job to be terminated, to protest against the effects of the international embargo on the Iraqi people," a western diplomatic source said.

The United Nations confirmed Burghart's resignation, but a spokeswoman described it as "a personal decision ... to leave and return to the service of a government." Burghart has held the post since January 1999.

Her request to leave follows hot on the heels of that of United Nations aid coordinator for Iraq Hans von Sponeck for similar reasons. Von Sponeck, a German like Burghart, said Tuesday he resigned because the latest UN Security Council resolution was unworkable and would not ease the human "tragedy" of the sanctions-hit country. Von Sponeck said his views were widely shared among colleagues overseeing the UN oil-for-food programme under which Iraq is authorised to sell crude to finance imports of essential goods. "I'm not alone in my view that we have reached a point where it is no longer acceptable that we are keeping our mouths shut," he said in an interview with Qatar's satellite TV channel Al-Jazira. "Everyone here in the UN is concerned over the inadequacy of the performance of the oil-for-food programme."

UN Security Council resolution 1284 offers Iraq a suspension of sanctions in return for its full cooperation with a new arms control panel, as well as easing humanitarian imports. Iraq has condemned but not formally rejected the resolution.

"I do not want to be party to a continued struggle under which the people here in this country have to exist because there is a mix-up between the civilian concerns and the disarmament discussion," von Sponeck said. He also dismissed criticism of his performance from the United States that he was repeating the Iraqi government's views. "We must speak out. Not, as the spokesman of the State Department in Washington DC says, because we are trying to support a government," said von Sponeck. "Our support, my support, my commitment is for the Iraqi people as a group of deprived people whose tragedy should end," he said.

Von Sponeck, who had held the job since September 1998, had been under fire from Washington and London since last year for criticising the sanctions which the United Nations imposed on Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in August 1990. He replaced another critic of the sanctions regime, Dennis Halliday of Ireland, who was now campaigning for it to be lifted.

The United States on Monday applauded von Sponeck's impending departure, with State Department spokesman James Rubin telling reporters it would be "better for the US government, the people of Iraq and the people of the world." However France, which opposes the hardline sanctions policy of the United States and Britain, Tuesday praised von Sponeck's record. "We want to pay tribute to the remarkable work done by Mr. von Sponeck," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret.

CNN Interactive (also on Feb. 15, 2000)

adds that:
Today the country is impoverished, and infant mortality has doubled since the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991. [...]
"I do not think it is fair to make the civilian population subject to bargaining ... (by) the government of Iraq on the one hand and the others in the Security Council," Hans von Sponeck said. "The real victims are those who walk the streets of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul."

More Information on Iraq Sanctions


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