23 February 2000 Media statement for immediate release
Goff to raise Iraq issue and UN resignations with Kofi Annan today: move supported by Iraq sanctions doctors group; part of current review by new Government of NZ support for UN sanctions against Iraq
Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff announced today that he will be raising the issue of the impact of Iraq sanctions when he meets United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan today.
As reported on RNZ "Morning Report" this morning, Goff noted that besides raising the issues of East Timor and funding of the UN, he would be discussing the "Iraqi situation" with the Secretary-general, and in particular the impacts on "innocent civilians".
An Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group (ISMAG) spokesman, Dr. Marten Hutt, said that "This is a notable statement by Minister Goff which we support. It is the first time that we are aware of of a NZ Foreign Affairs Minister stating that the "sanctions themselves" might be responsible for the sort of statistics UNICEF reports, such as 4,500 children dying per month due to the sanctions".
"While we do not deny, with the Minister, the blame to be attached to the Iraqi regime itself, the situation is complex. Goff's predecessor, Don McKinnon, always maintained that "any suffering in Iraq is the direct responsibility of the Iraqi Government" and that NZ has "no significant role to play concerning Iraq and the sanctions regime...and no useful purpose is served by urging the Government to take any initatives in this matter" Goff's statement today demonstrates he is prepared to take such initatives and look closely at the issue beyond simplistic rhetorical statements".
Dr Hutt continued that "ISMAG supports Goff in his ongoing consultations in the review of NZ policy towards Iraq. As well as raisng the issue with Kofi Annan and Helen Clark today, we hope he will also meet with Denis Halliday (former UN Assistant Secretary-General who resigned in protest at the sanctions in 1998) when he visits NZ in April. As a non-partisan group, we are aware that other political parties besides Labour are reconsidering their policy positions towards Iraq and we support them in that process"
As Hans Von Sponeck, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator who resigned last week said on Friday, as reported by Reuters, "everyone here in the UN is concerned over the inadequacy of the oil-for-food programme...That is not just my view". Dr. Hutt concluded by saying that "As much as we applaud Goff on his initative, the question must be asked: How can New Zealand support a UN programme that UN officials implementing it are resigning in protest over? The situation is absurd. The sanctions are immoral, unjust and ineffective".
ISMAG contact: Dr. Marten Hutt wk ph: (04) 463 6527 / hm: 389 1706 Fax:
(04) 463 6568 email@example.com
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