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14 February 2000 Media statement for immediate release

Top UN official resigns: puts pressure on NZ support for UN sanctions against Iraq

As reported in the world press today, the United Nations' humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq, has resigned his position, in protest at the sanctions against Iraq. This was in the face of intense US/UK pressure, but also the support of UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who did not want him to resign.

Mr. Annan will be in New Zealand next week, and the Iraq issue is expected to be be discussed with Prime Minister Helen Clark and Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff.

The resignation of Von Sponeck follows that of his predecessor, Denis Halliday, who will be in New Zealand briefing officials and politicians in April. Halliday also resigned in protest at what he called the "futility" of sanctions. Although under curent review, the NZ government position is
to support the sanctions against Iraq, mainly through sending frigates to the Gulf. UNICEF argues the sanctions directly result in the death of 4,500 children per month.

An Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group (ISMAG) spokesman, Dr. Marten Hutt, said that "The statements and resignation of Von Sponeck is the latest in a long line of diplomats, soldiers, doctors, politicians and journalists - who have recently seriously questioned the nature of policy towards Iraq. As Oscar Wilde might have said "To have lost one senior UN official is careless, to lose two is a tragedy". Von Sponeck, like Halliday before him, has been brave and honourable. The sanctions are immoral, unjust and ineffective".

"With Phil Goff and Helen Clark meeting Kofi Annan next week, and possibly Denis Halliday in April, now is the time for the new government to reconsider their policy position on Iraq sanctions ".

Mr von Sponeck, a career UN official from Germany, has provoked anger in Washington and London by calling for an end to UN sanctions on Iraq. Mr von Sponeck said the sanctions had created a "true human tragedy". He had called for the Security Council to separate the issue of relief for ordinary Iraqis from the political issue of disarmament. "How long the civilian population, which is totally innocent on all this, should be exposed to such punishment for something that they have never done?" he asked today.

ISMAG contact: Dr. Marten Hutt wk ph: (04) 463 6527 / hm: 389 1706 Fax:
(04) 463 6568

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