The Catholic Agency For Overseas Development is calling on MPs to press for a peaceful solution to the crisis over Iraq. The agency believes that any military action, with or without Security Council approval, would cause untold suffering to the ordinary people of Iraq. CAFOD's Head of Public Policy, George Gelber, said: " We urge MPs to think very carefully about the humanitarian consequences of military action in Iraq, where the people are already suffering from the effects of more than ten years of economic sanctions. A full-scale war in Iraq would inflict a very heavy toll on the civilian population. The health system and hospitals, already creaking under the strain of sanctions, could not begin to cope with the thousands of civilian casualties that bombing and war would cause. A war would also create tens of thousands of refugees. It is the people of Iraq who would suffer." CAFOD has been working in Iraq for the last ten years and has first hand experience of the appalling conditions that ordinary people already have to endure as a consequence of sanctions. Military action would add untold suffering to a situation that can already be described as a humanitarian disaster. "It is imperative that UK MPs use their voice in the House of Commons to ensure that the humanitarian consequences of war are given as much consideration as military and political arguments. In this context, we welcome the Iraqi move to re-admit UN weapons inspectors unconditionally and believe that this invitation, if implemented in good faith by all sides, should lift the threat of war from a people that has already seen health, nutrition and education standards plummet as a result of sanctions", said George Gelber. CAFOD began working in Iraq with its sister agency, the Catholic Church's 'Confrerie de la Charite' during the Gulf War in 1992. For the past five years, support has been focussed on the Confrerie's feeding and nutrition programmes, targeting especially vulnerable groups such as malnourished babies and children. A recent report released by CAFOD - Iraq, Sanctions and the War on Terrorism - examined the likely impact of military action against Iraq and concluded: "It would be difficult to imagine a single, more effective way of wreaking further devastation on an already devastated country*. and creating a major humanitarian crisis with hundreds of thousands of innocent victims". For more information visit CAFOD's website www.cafod.org.uk
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