The New York Times
March 22, 1991, Friday, Late Edition - Final
Page A1, Column 6, Foreign Desk
After The War;
U.N. Survey Calls Iraq's War Damage Near-Apocalyptic
By PAUL LEWIS, Special to The New York Times
UNITED NATIONS, March 21 --- A United Nations survey of civilian damage caused by the allied bombardment of Iraq calls the results "near apocalyptic." The survey, which was made public today, recommends an immediate end to the embargo on imports of food and other essential supplies to prevent "imminent catastrophe."
The report, prepared by a United Nations team that visited the country between March 10 and March 17, says the bombing has relegated Iraq "to a pre-industrial age" and warns that the nation could face "epidemic and famine if massive life-supporting needs are not rapidly met."
It calls for "a major mobilization and movement of resources" to provide immediate substantial supplies of food, agricultural equipment, fuel, electrical generators and machinery for water purification, garbage disposal and sewage treatment.
U.S. Position on Sanctions
The report was prepared by Under Secretary General Martti Ahtisaari, who was sent by Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar. He was accompanied by representatives of Unicef, the United Nations Development Program, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization. Mr. Ahtisaari, a Finn, earned praise in 1989 for his handling of Namibia's move to independence.
A White House spokesman said the Administration would "give the report careful study," but declined to comment on its findings.
The report seemed to be at odds with allied military officials' insistence that the damage in Iraq was largely confined to military sites and transportation links. But allied briefers acknowledged that they had destroyed power plants and oil refineries, and the United Nations report stresses that the lack of electricity and fuel is paralyzing hospitals, water purification and sewage treatment plants and irrigation projects.
It says the monthly allocation of food staples to the population fell from 343,000 tons last September to 135,000 tons in January.
Most Workers Are Idle
The report says 90 percent of Iraq's industrial workers "have been reduced to inactivity and will be deprived of income as of the end of March." Most families already "lack access to adequate rations or the purchasing power to meet normal minimal standards."
The report says that until Iraq acquires fuel and electrical generating equipment, "food that is imported cannot be distributed; water cannot be purified; sewage cannot be pumped away and cleansed; crops cannot be irrigated; medicines cannot be conveyed where they are required; needs cannot even be effectively assessed."
Diplomats say the report's findings are likely to bring pressure for a substantial relaxation in the trade sanctions against Iraq when the special committee monitoring compliance with the restrictions meets on Friday.
The United States has said sanctions should be lifted only when Baghdad fulfills all the allies' conditions for a permanent cease-fire. The special committee can grant a waiver on food and shipments of humanitarian aid, but the entire embargo may be lifted only by a Security Council resolution.
Ever since the trade embargo was imposed on Aug. 6, after the invasion of Kuwait, the United States has argued against any premature relaxation in the belief that by making life uncomfortable for the Iraqi people it will eventually encourage them to remove President Saddam Hussein from power.
Complex New Resolution
An American draft of a proposed resolution on a permanent cease-fire that has been circulating here indicates that the Bush Administration wants the Security Council to lift only the ban on food shipments after adopting the complex new resolution.
Under the American draft, even after a permanent cease-fire is set, Council permission would still be needed for imports of "materials and supplies for essential civilian needs," though the Council would examine this requirement every 60 days in the light of Baghdad's compliance and could eventually lift it.
As expected, the American draft also requires Iraq to agree to the destruction of its ballistic missile systems as well as chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
1963 Frontier Cited
Only when Iraq formally agrees to all provisions of the draft, which is still under discussion, would a cease-fire become effective.
The United States draft says Iraq must accept the boundary agreement it made with Kuwait in 1963 but subsequently rejected. And it empowers the Security Council to guarantee that frontier with "all necessary means," a phrase that would permit the use of military force against any violator.
In addition, it calls for deployment of a United Nations military observer force along the frontier to monitor possible cease-fire violations and establishes a special fund to pay compensation for damage caused by Iraq's annexation of Kuwait.
The draft maintains a complete ban on sales of military equipment to Iraq as well as dangerous technologies used in making chemical, biological or nuclear weapons and sets out a four-month timetable for Iraq to comply with all these provisions.
The original sanctions banned all trade and financial dealings with Iraq and occupied Kuwait, except for the provision of medicine. Food was allowed when the committee judged that humanitarian circumstances required it.
This month the committee agreed to speed approval of shipments of food and humanitarian aid, but the call for lifting the restrictions appears to go further than the United States envisages at present.
At Odds With U.S. Position
Assessing the effects of allied bombing and the trade embargo on Iraq's economy, the report says "the recent conflict has wrought near-apocalyptic results upon the infrastructure of what had been until January 1991 a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society."
The report says that about 9,000 Iraqi homes were destroyed or damaged beyond repair during the war, including 2,500 in Baghdad and another 1,900 in Basra, and that about 72,000 people have been left homeless.
It says "most means of modern life support have been destroyed or rendered tenuous" and warns that "for some time to come" the country has been "relegated to a pre-industrial age but with all the disabilities of post-industrial dependency on an intensive use of energy and technology."
After surveying the food shortage and warning that this year's harvest may fail, the report recommends that "sanctions in respect of food supplies should be immediately removed, as should those relating to the import agricultural equipment and supplies."
The report concludes: "It is unmistakable that the Iraqi people may soon face a further imminent catastrophe, which could include epidemic and famine, if massive life-supporting needs are not rapidly met. The long summer, with its often 45 or even 50 degree temperatures (113-122 degrees Fahrenheit) is only weeks away. Time is short."
Copyright © 1991 The New York Times Company
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