Is Embargo Against Iraq Crumbling?

BAGHDAD, Iraq, DEC. 18, 2000 (

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Non-military planes from other countries are beginning to fly over Iraq´s skies, violating the decade-long economic blockade.

This "international disobedience» began a few months ago with a small plane carrying an Italian mission of the Italy-Iraq Association, taking humanitarian aid to Iraq. Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzaroto, apostolic nuncio, said it «is the prelude to something new, as 60 planes have landed over the last two months.»

A former U.N. humanitarian coordinator who worked in Iraq, German Hans von Sponeck, said: «What was acceptable 10 years ago, now no longer is. This embargo is a clear violation of human rights.»

The U.S.-backed embargo has been aimed, in no small part, at Saddam Hussein. But it has been the Iraqi people who have borne the brunt of the consequences. The halt to exports and imports has hurt the agricultural economy and domestic market.

«The people first need to eat, before they can think of democracy,» said the patriarchal Chaldean vicar, Father Joseph Habbi, before his death Oct. 15 in a road accident. «Why have they wished to exterminate these people? Should they be exterminated because a government was in error?»

Children die of hunger and diarrhea. According to a UNICEF report, every month malnutrition kills more than 4,500 children 5 years of age or younger. Moreover, there is an increase of children begging on the streets, something that was unknown 10 years ago.

The Italian mission of the Italy-Iraq Friendship and Cooperation Association, took a group of parliamentarians, doctors and businessmen to Iraq to establish contacts for a future without the embargo. At the governmental level, other European countries, especially Germany and France, have set foot in Baghdad, and begun relations, which will eventually lead to agreements and contracts.

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