Iraq resisting British conference on aid shipments
April 11, 1998
An American church group delivers medicines to an Iraqi hospital
Web posted at: 10:58 p.m. EDT (0258 GMT)
From Correspondent Jane Arraf
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Britain is planning an international conference next week to work out how to speed up delivery of food and medicine to Iraq's people, using private aid groups.
But what seems like a simple idea is running into some major roadblocks.
Iraq's National Assembly has called for an international boycott of the London conference, maintaining that only the United Nations has the right to discuss the oil-for-food program, through which Iraqi aid is channeled.
The view in Baghdad is that Britain can't be trusted.
"This conference is an attempt to go around the U.N. resolutions and an attempt to weaken the [U.N.] Secretary-General," said one Iraqi assemblyman.
Other members said they think the London conference is just another ploy to keep economic sanctions on Iraq in place indefinitely.
George Galloway, a Labour Party member of the British Parliament who has been visiting Iraq and meeting with Iraqi leaders, say there are enough countries with enough concerns that the London meeting could backfire.
"It looks on the face of it ... that there are going to be some notable absentees from the conference and some serious question marks raised about its purpose," Galloway said.
U.N. officials in Baghdad who oversee the oil-for-food program say they are also in the dark about the purpose of the London conference.
While Iraq has pledged to cooperate with the United Nations, the London meeting could be a source of tension just as the U.N. Security Council prepares to evaluate Iraq's compliance with key U.N. resolutions.
A recently released report by 13 international experts says Iraq is still withholding information about its biological weapons program. Those experts were impaneled at the insistence of Iraq, which wanted an impartial group to examine its track record.