Caritas calls for end to Iraqi sanctions

 Baby incubators, x-ray machines, medicines and bandages are among the items that have been banned for export to Iraq for the past ten years. "The sanctions are humanly catastrophic, morally indefensible and politically ineffective. They are a failed policy and must be changed," said director of CAFOD Julian Filochowski. Together with Fr Frank Turner SJ, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, he has just returned from a visit to Iraq with Caritas Europe - representing aid organisations from several countries. The Caritas report, published this week, 'A people sacrificed', reveals a disturbing picture of the suffering of a once prosperous nation which is being systematically deskilled and reduced to extreme poverty. Rejecting the argument that the human effects of sanctions are a price worth paying to achieve the West's military and political goals, the report says: 'The suffering of the Iraqi people cannot be regarded as unfortunate but collateral damage, in what is otherwise an honourable course of action. The fact that sanctions are patently ineffective only adds insult to injury.' The report calls on the UK government and the UN security council to suspend comprehensive economic sanctions on Iraq immediately and allow the world community to set in place a new relationship with the Iraqis. It will be used to lobby British MPs and European ministers for a change of policy on Iraq and comes at a critical time when the UK and US governments and Arab states are continually questioning their ethics and effectiveness. Filochowski said: "Some will accuse us of being apologists for the Iraqi regime - we are not. But we are proud to be apologists for the Iraqi people."

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