Santa says no to Iraq bombing

REYKJAVIK, Dec 16 (South News) - An Icelandic charity said on Wednesday it would plead with the United Nations to stop possible military fire on Iraq as it was preparing to fly in gifts and medical aid to Iraqi children.

``Nothing justifies bombing innocent children. We want to say hold your fire -- Santa's on his way,'' said Thor Magnusson, founder of the charity Peace 2000 International.

Last year the charity obtained permission to fly a civilian aircraft to Baghdad despite tight controls on Iraqi airspace.

The group said it had sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan asking for the same permission earlier this month but had not yet received a response.

Icelandic children have donated thousands of gifts for this year's flight.

``We want them to stop any attack. We think innocent children should not be bombed over the Christmas period,'' Magnusson said.

The charity said it believed 6,000 Iraqi children died from sickness or malnutrition each month because of punishing U.N. trade sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, despite agreements which allow Iraq to sell limited quantities of oil to pay for humanitarian purchases.

The Reykjavik-based charity has sent peace flights to help children in Belarus and Sarajevo and has applied to fly to the Yugoslav province of Kosovo this year.

Iraq and the United States edged closer to military confrontation on Wednesday after U.N. arms inspectors pulled out, accusing Baghdad of refusing to cooperate.