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10 Years of Sanctions: 500,000 Children Dead
- Protesters gather to call for an end to sanctions against Iraq

HUNDREDS of people are expected to gather outside the Foreign Office in London today to call for an end to ten years of sanctions against Iraq.

Since the measures were imposed in 1990 some 500,000 children have died as a direct result of the sanctions say the protesters. The economic stranglehold followed Iraq's invasion of neighbouring Kuwait. It was pushed through the United Nations Security Council by the United States and the United Kingdom. Other members of the Security Council have been keen to see sanctions lifted for some time.

The initial aim was to force Saddam Hussein's invasion armies to withdraw. Following the Gulf War, sanctions continued in an attempt to ensure Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction" were neutralised. Underlying the measures was a perceived attempt to force the defeated Iraqi leader's resignation from office.

Human rights campaigners say that the Iraqi people have suffered one calamity after another. Firstly from the ongoing brutality of their own leader. Secondly from the privations caused by the war against Iran, in which Hussein was actively supported by the West. Then there were the months of saturation bombing during the Gulf War - where more bombs were dropped than in the whole history of warfare put together. Iraq suffered half a million civilian casualties during the campaign. And now for the last decade they have had to cope with the increasingly harsh effects of comprehensive sanctions.

Matters were meant to have been eased several years ago when sanctions were modified to afford the provision of medical supplies and food, in return for Iraqi oil. However, the years of allied bombing have seriously damaged the country's oil production capacity, hindering its ability to produce oil with which to trade.

Veteran left-wing Labour MP Tony Benn will be among those addressing the rally which starts from noon. Today's demonstration follows several other attempts over the weekend to bring the issue into the public eye. Yesterday police removed Dave Ralston from the London Eye. Ralston, from Narberth in west Wales, who had attached himself to the the Eye, is a member of a group called Voices in the Wilderness, which campaigns against economic sanctions against Iraq.

The campaign is backed by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brentwood, the Rt Rev Thomas McMahon: "For 10 years the ordinary members of society have paid an appalling heavy penalty for decisions and actions over which they had no control. The impact on the Iraqi health service and upon availability of basic necessities has cost the lives of many people, and particularly the lives of children."

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