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Russia's embrace of Iraq shows lack of conscience



Published: Sat, July 7, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Russia should know that its call for an end to economic sanctions against Iraq on the grounds that the Iraqi people have suffered long enough rings as hollow as its national treasury. If the fledgling democracy weren't in deep financial trouble and if it weren't owed billions of dollars by Iraq, we would be willing to give the Putin government the benefit of the doubt.

But Russia needs Iraq to keep earning money from the sale of oil -- legally or illegally -- which thus explains its veto in the U.N. Security Council of a proposal that would have had the effect of depriving Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein of so-called "smuggling" income.

The United Nations imposed sanctions on the oil-rich nation after it invaded neighboring Kuwait in 1990. Six years later, in an effort to alleviate the pain and suffering being experienced by the poor, the elderly and the very young, the world organization gave Iraq permission to sell unlimited amounts of oil to purchase food, medicine and other essentials and to pay war reparations. The money goes into a U.N. controlled escrow account.

But the oil-for-food program isn't what Saddam Hussein cares about. His first priority is keep building Iraq's military might, and for that he needs weapons. The Russians are only happen to provide what Saddam needs -- at a price.

Smuggling: The government-sponsored oil smuggling provides Saddam with money that is used to buy weapons and to enrich himself and members of his inner circle. Their lives of luxury and wealth are a sharp contrast to what has happened to the ordinary citizen.

Hussein's refusal to allow U.N weapons experts to conduct on-site inspections to certify that Iraq had dismantled its weapons of mass destruction is proof positive that the Butcher of Baghdad has not changed his evil ways.

Lifting the economic sanctions, as Russia has recommended, would simply reward the mastermind of the massacre of the Kurdish people and would send a troubling signal to other ruthless dictators.

The United States and Britain, which had proposed the new "smart sanctions" policy that was vetoed by Russia, must not bow to pressure from countries that depend on Iraq for oil to lift the economic sanctions now in place.

Misery: This is not a siege on Iraq, as some have called it, or a heartless policy by well-off nations. Saddam Hussein is solely responsible for whatever misery has befallen his country and he must be held responsible.

The Iraqi people must know that their lives will not improve if the sanctions are lifted. The problem isn't the United Nations, it's Saddam Hussein and his henchmen.




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