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Mohammed A. Aldouri, Permanent Representative of Iraq to the UN speaking to the Security Council yesterday. Meanwhile, warning of "imminent disaster" in Iraq, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued an urgent appeal Wednesday for $90-million (US) in emergency-relief funds and said he would soon seek "much larger sums." Mr. Annan said the impending invasion could lead to epidemics and starvation as UN-administered food stocks run out. (UN photo/E Debebe)...

 


Annan sees 'imminent disaster'

By PAUL KNOX

Warning of "imminent disaster" in Iraq, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued an urgent appeal Wednesday for $90-million (U.S.) in emergency-relief funds and said he would soon seek "much larger sums."

Mr. Annan said the impending invasion could lead to epidemics and starvation as UN-administered food stocks run out.

Nearly a million Iraqi children suffer from malnutrition, and millions more lack clean water and access to basic health care, Mr. Annan told the United Nations Security Council.

"In the short term, the conflict that is now clearly about to start can make things worse, perhaps much worse," he said, adding that more than 60 per cent of Iraqis rely exclusively on UN-administered rations for food.

Without naming the United States and Britain, Mr. Annan warned that under international law, occupying powers are responsible for the welfare of civilians.

He said the UN is prepared to help meet basic needs.

Of $123-million sought from donor nations a month ago for UN contingency planning, only $34-million has been received, Mr. Annan said.

Much more will be needed when relief operations begin in Iraq and among refugees fleeing the country, he said. A UN source said the amount needed is between $1.5-billion and $2-billion.

Two wars, internal conflict and crippling UN sanctions have left Iraq's infrastructure devastated. The UN says families are forced to sell some of the food rations it provides to buy clothes and other essential supplies for children.

Mr. Annan said he is developing proposals that will enable UN humanitarian programs to be restarted quickly once relief workers can operate in postconflict Iraq.

Diplomats said countries are wary of committing money until it is clear what kind of regime emerges from the Iraq conflict.

Under the largest UN relief program in Iraq, revenue from the country's oil exports has been used to pay for food and other supplies. The program has been suspended and, if there is no Iraqi government in place to release the oil, would need a fresh Security Council mandate to be restarted.

One diplomat said countries have been reluctant to commit money for UN contingency plans for fear they would appear to be condoning invasion. A key issue in redesigning the oil-for-food plan is the kind of regime the occupying U.S. forces will set up to administer the country, the diplomat said.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte told the council the United States has contributed more than $60-million to UN and private agencies for Iraq-related relief operations and urged others to contribute.

That produced a bitter response from Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Al-Douri.

He referred sarcastically to the "excessive generosity" of the United States and Britain, "promising dozens of millions of dollars for the Iraqi people to save them" as they are about to attack.

"The Iraqi people do not need these millions of dollars," Mr. Al-Douri said.

Syria lashed out at the U.S. decision to go to war. "The last thing our region needs is another war," said Bouthania Shaadan, spokeswoman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry. "What we need is peace."

Despite fears of a humanitarian crisis, much of Wednesday's meeting was devoted to recriminations over the council's failure to agree to continue UN efforts to eliminate chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq.

Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, his disarmament efforts suspended indefinitely, told the council recent letters from Iraq about chemical and biological programs provided "only limited new information."

Opponents of the United States on the council said there was no justification for war.

"Iraq's readiness to co-operate was unsatisfactory," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said. "It was hesitant and slow. The council agrees on that. But can this seriously be regarded as grounds for war?"

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov challenged Mr. Bush's assertion that Iraq's flouting of previous council resolutions on disarmament gives individual members the authority to go to war.

"Not one of these decisions authorizes the right to use force against Iraq outside the UN Charter," Mr. Ivanov said. "Not one of them authorizes the violent overthrow of a sovereign state."


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