The Guardian March 29, 2000


Britain:
Government bans Iraq relief flight

The British government has blocked attempts by campaigning Labour MP 
George Galloway to fly a shipment of three tons of vital vaccines and 
medicines directly to Baghdad. The mercy flight was forced to halt at the 
Jordanian capital of Amman and its vital cargo for the people of 
beleaguered Iraq made to take the thousand mile desert route by lorry to 
Baghdad.

"I am bitter and angry", Galloway told the Arab media as he prepared for 
the overland trip. "The medicine includes expensive and sensitive medicine, 
such as vaccines for rabies, diptheria and typhoid."

Although this is the first time that the British government has given 
permission for the export of such medicine (collected by the Mariam Appeal 
charity) to Iraq, the Labour MP had harsh words for the obstructions put in 
the way of the mercy flight by the Blair government.

The Mariam Appeal had chartered a plane to take 209 supporters, 
journalists, aid workers and doctors along with the medical aid directly to 
Baghdad. After British government objections this was scaled down to 29. 
Even this was too much for the Foreign Office to swallow.

The government eventually referred it to the notorious Anglo-American 
dominated UN Sanctions Committee  which imposed a virtual veto on the 
flight.

The Sanctions Committee demanded precise details on the purpose of every 
single person travelling on board this mercy flight  giving Galloway just 
three hours to comply with the request.

As the majority of the 29 passengers left were journalists the Marian 
Appeal saw this "as a wrecking manoeuvre designed to ensure media exposure 
of the suffering in Iraq remains beyond the gaze of the general public".

On Friday 10 March a leading London peace activist started a death-fast in 
protest at the continuing blockade of Iraq. Richard Crump, a leading member 
of Voices in the Wilderness and Ex-Services CND, said: "I don't want to 
die, but I am willing to risk my health and my life.

"A fresh millennium has dawned, with a good deal of hype, flashing lights, 
etc. But the wickedness continues re Iraq, as it has done for the past ten 
years.

"Crippling sanctions continue to cause death and privation and the bombing 
of that country by British and American aircraft is so commonplace as to be 
un-newsworthy. My feeling is that we are entering a new era of barbarism."

Iraq is giving US$10 million worth of crude oil to Vietnam to help the 
country overcome the aftermath of the tragic floods which hit the country's 
central provinces in November and December 1999. The aid is outside the 
oil-for-food programme organised by the United Nations.

* * *
New Worker

Back to index page