Iraq's central bank governor on Wednesday appealed to the International Monetary Fund to speak out against United Nations sanctions on his country, which he said violate the IMF's Articles of Agreement.
Issam Rashid Hwaish, addressing the annual general assembly of the IMF and the World Bank, told finance officials from around the world that 10 years of sanctions "have caused the Iraqi people unprecedented suffering."
The measures, imposed following Iraq's seizure of Kuwait in August 1990, have deprived the population of clean drinking water, sanitation facilities, electricity and critical medical supplies, Hwaish told the gathering.
The country, he added, now faces "an enormous human disaster if appropriate measures are not taken soon."
Several UN and humanitarian agencies have likewise highlighted the social devastation in Iraq brought on by the sanctions. The measures have been increasingly criticized by Russia, France and Arab nations but have the strong backing of the United States and Britain.
Hwaish on Wednesday cited article one, paragraph four of the IMF's founding document, which calls on the Fund to work for the elimination of restrictions that hamper world trade.
"The economic sanctions imposed on Iraq since 1990 are in conflict with the Fund's Articles of Agreement and its philosophy," he argued.
Recalling that Iraq is a founding member of the IMF, he told the gathering: "This gives me the right to ask the Fund to raise its voice against the continuation of these unjust economic sanctions and the freezing of Iraqi assets, which contradict not only the Fund's principles but also the most basic humanitarian and social values."
Under a 1996 program Iraq is authorized to sell crude oil under UN supervision and to import -- also under UN supervision -- food and other essential supplies to ease the impact of the sanctions.
But Hwaish insisted that it had failed to improve life in Iraq.
"It has been transformed from a humanitarian program ... to an oil exchange deal used to cover United Nations expenditures and compensation rather than the needs of the Iraqi people."
Only 53 percent of the revenues generated by the program are actually used to help Iraq meet its humanitarian needs.
Thirty percent of the proceeeds are allocated to compensate victims of the Gulf war, 13 percent allows UN agencies to provide for the largely Kurdish population in northern Iraq and the remaining four percent is to cover UN Iraq-related administrative costs.
While Iraq has exported oil valued at 32.9 billion dollars under the five-year-old program, the value of food and humanitarian goods reaching the country during that period has not exceeded 12.6 billion dollars, or 2.5 billion a year, according to Hwaish.
He also noted that the UN Iraq sanctions committee frequently refuses to approve contracts for essential items that Baghdad should be entitled to acquire under the program.
The United Nations on Tuesday put the value of blocked contracts, mostly in the transport, telecommunications and electricity sectors, at more that two billion dollars.
The office administering the oil-for-food program said contracts are blocked for lacking technical specifications or because the items are deemed to have a potential military use.
"The policy of blocking or suspending contracts for medicine and medical goods has increased the suffering of Iraqi patients and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of them, children in particular," Hwaish told the assembly.—(AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)