< South News June 13  

South News June 13

US holds up Iraqi medical supplies

Iraq's health minister accused the United States of slowing the delivery of medicine to Iraq under the U.N.-approved oil-for-food program. Mr.  Omed Medhat Mubarak said that precious  little medicine had arrived in Iraq as a result of the  Food-for-oil deal since oil began to flow in December. The delay in arrival of medical supplies causes the death of 120 children a day, he said

He blamed U.S. representatives on the committee for delaying the signing of contracts by questioning costs or the propriety under the program of some items requested by the Iraqis. To date  Iraq has only received one per cent of its medical orders .All the questions are `` just excuses to delay the contracts,'' the Iraqi health minister said, adding that among the goods held up were 200 ambulances.

To compound matters medical donations from "friendly countries"  provided around eight to ten per cent of Iraqi's medical needs but these inputs stopped arriving after the signing in May of the memorandum of understanding between the U.N. and Iraq on the technicalities of the deal.
Mortality rates among children have escalated with 8.000 children over five years old dying every month compared to 1.600 before Iraq was put on the trade blacklist. Malnutrition and lack of clean water were major causes of death. Some 95 per cent of Iraqi's population had access to clean drinking water before the Gulf war, compared to 21 per cent currently, Mr. Mubarak said.
Iraq faced a desperate shortage of all medicine and equipment spare parts, which resulted in the use of only 30 to 40 per cent its 30.000 hospital beds. Infections diseases such as cholera, polio and hepatitis had re-turned to plague Iraq and malaria was a menace in the north and east of the country.
Health conditions have worsened in Iraq since the Persian Gulf War, with the death rate for children rising to 168 per 1,000 births from 24 per 1,000 births before the conflict. Recent U.N. reports say more than 750,000 Iraqi children do not have enough to eat and that there are fears the situation could result in a future stunted generation. Most at risk were children under two years of age. World Health Organisation chief Hiroshi Nakajima said in February during a visit to the country that Iraq's health system was close
to collapse.

The UN Security Council voted  on June 4 to  renew for another six-month the food-for-oil deal with Iraq to ease the plight of civilians under crippling sanctions for nearly seven years. Under the plan, which took effect on Dec. 10 and expired on June 7, Iraq has been allowed to sell $2 billion worth of oil to buy food, medicine and other necessities to help alleviate the effects of 1990 Gulf War embargo  .

 Sources: Al Thawra, AFP, Reuter, Associated Press 

Iraq and China sign cultural agreement

Iraq and China signed an agreement to boost their cultural and scientific cooperation, the official Iraqi News Agency (INA) said on Tuesday.

`` Iraq's Undersecretary of Higher Education and Scientific Research Sabri al-Ani and Chinese ambassador in Baghdad signed the minutes,'' INA said. Under the agreement both states would exchange scholarships and publications on education, culture, media and sports, the agency said. INA gave no further details but said the signing ceremony was attended by Iraq's Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Humam Abdul-Khaleq Ahdul-Ghafur.

Last week the two countries signed in Baghdad a $1.2 billion contract to develop the Ahdab oilfield in southern Iraq.
Source: INA

Cuba condemns new US sanctions

The Cuban government has condemned new punitive measures against the island emanating from the United States, this time in the form of 10 amendments approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives on May 6.

In a Havana press conference live broadcast, Ricardo Alarcón, president of the Cuban National Assembly, stated that while the Clinton administration has shown no signs of fulfilling the April 11 understanding reached with the European Union (EU) concerning the section of the Helms-Burton Act covering the exclusion from U.S. territory of citizens from third countries investing in Cuba, the elements sponsoring that legislation have launched new proposals running counter to those commitments.

“The 10 amendments made to the Foreign Policy Reform Act,” Alarcón stated, “deprive President Clinton of the possibility of acting more flexibly in regard to Title IV of the Helms-Burton Act and add further extraterritorial and aggressive measures not only against Cuba, but against third countries.”
He continued in an ironic vein: “Curiously, the May 6 meeting attained a characteristic that will make history in the context of world parliamentary procedure, since it is the first session of a congressional committee to have achieved absolute secrecy in spite of being public.

“To date,” he continued, “there's been no circulation of these texts, in spite of the fact that the only procedure remaining is their approval by the full House of Representatives. This is why we've decided to inform international opinion of something that has been deliberately kept out of public knowledge.”
In addition to the amendments, Alarcón mentioned two further bills published in the United States, one which would deprive the president of the power to suspend legal proceedings against foreign investors in Cuba, and another establishing a series of requirements that would allow him to continue exercising that power by taxing the countries of those investors, which, “from all points of view must be unacceptable to any sovereign nation.”

Alarcón continued: “As if that weren't enough, they have announced the possibility of presenting a fifth title to Helms-Burton or attaching it to another law, in order to establish new sanctions against foreign companies operating in Cuba, this time through the imposition of taxes.”
Given this situation, he said that the Cuban government had decided to inform other governments and to send a report to the UN protesting “these new attempts that run counter to the attitude expressed by the General Assembly on the blockade.”

Source :Granma

Antiwar protesters detained in Turkey

More than 200 protesters were detained on Saturday 7 June in a park in central Ankara while preparing to leave a black wreath at the American Embassy to protest at international inaction over events in Northern Iraq. Seventy-two protesters, including several trade union officials, are still held incommunicado at Ankara Police Headquarters after the releases of others on Sunday.

 "It is alarming that these people were detained simply for peacefully demonstrating against the Turkish incursion into Northern Iraq," Amnesty International said. "They are prisoners of conscience and should be released immediately." Although the demonstration was non-violent, the detentions were carried out under the terms of the Anti-Terror Law, apparently so that the detainees could be held longer without access to a lawyer.

UN calls on Israel to pay damages

The UN General Assembly endorsed a resolution on Friday calling on Israel to pay more than $1.7 million for damage resulting from its shelling of a U.N. base at Qana, in southern Lebanon, last year in which about 100 civilians taking refuge were killed.

A U.N. inquiry last year found that Israel's shelling of the Qana camp during a drive against Hizbollah guerrillas who had fired rockets into northern Israel was unlikely to have been the result of gross technical or procedural errors..

The resolution was originally sponsored by Tanzania on behalf of the the  "Group of 77" developing countries -- now with 132 members -- and China. The resolution, dealing with the financing of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), received 127 votes in favor, with the United States and Israel voting against. Russia which, along with the United States, sponsors the Middle East peace process, cast the sole abstention.

The paragraph in the draft dealing with the damages assessment against Israel was put to a separate vote and received 66 votes in favor, with the United States and Israel opposed and 59 abstentions.

The resolution was called up from the Assembly's administrative and budgetary committee, which adopted it on June 7 by a vote of 107 to two (Israel and the United States), with three abstentions (Japan, Russia and Ukraine).

In a separate vote on that occasion, the paragraph dealing with payment of damages by Israel was approved by 58 to two (Israel and the United States) with 52 abstentions.

Japan and Ukraine, which abstained on the overall resolution in the committee, switched in the Assembly and voted in favor. They again abstained on the damages paragraph.

Lebanese Ambassador Samir Moubarak said the outcome was "a victory for the credibility of the United Nations."
 Source : Reuter

Workers conditions undermined by globalisation

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), world's largest labor group, said today that workers' rights are under fierce assault around the world as employers drive to exploit free markets and economic globalization to push up profits.

The annual survey, issued by the Brussels-based ICFTU at the conference of the United Nations' International Labor Organization (ILO), said women in particular were suffering from an assault on unions by governments and big companies.

"Governments' thirst for investment is compounded by the insatiable appetite of employers for new markets and a 'competitive' labor force, by which they mean cheap and endlessly exploitable," an introduction to the report said.

"This combination of governments seeking to shed their powers of intervention in the economy, and employers and the business world seeking to increase theirs, is one of the root causes of anti-union repression," wrote ICFTU General Secretary Bill Jordan.

"As governments dismantle their public services and multinational companies look for the cheapest workers, women are increasingly in the front line of anti-union repression," the ICFTU said.

The strictures were identical to those in a similar report issued on Wednesday by the smaller, but also Brussels-based World Confederation of Labor (WCL), and were echoed in a major U.N. survey on Thursday.

Under globalization -- trade liberalization, free investment flows and integration of world financial markets -- the market was the only regulator and "everything is sacrificed to the cause of competitiveness" to maximize profits, the WCL said.

This was widening the gap between rich and poor in North and South, while workers were being forced to abandon rights they had won to social protection and decent working conditions.

In its annual report issued on Thursday, the U.N.'s Development Program (UNDP) also drew a stark picture of poor countries -- and poor people in rich countries -- dropping deeper into poverty under globalization.

The report by the ICFTU, which links 124 million workers in 195 organizations across 137 countries, said the onslaught on labor rights took institutional as well as violent forms.

Women especially suffered, it said, because under global market reforms public sector enterprises, where many employees are female, were being decimated "and because sweatshops and export processing zones are being set up in countries where multinational companies can find cheap, non-unionized workers."

In the United States, the report declared, "the right to strike and the right of workers to organize trade unions are not adequately protected in the labor legislation.

"The law is unable to protect workers when the employer is determined to destroy or prevent trade union representation... At least one in 10 union supporters campaigning to form a union is illegally fired by the employer."
 Source : Reuter