Archbishop of Basra calls for end to 'oil for food' blockade

 The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Gabriel Kassab of Basra, Iraq, issued to following statement to Die Presse newspaper on Tuesday: As pastor of the small Catholic community in southern Iraq, I greet you. For thirteen years now, the people of Iraq have been enduring tremendous difficulties and daily tragedies caused by lack of food, medicine, and the basic necessities of life. The blockade imposed on us has impoverished our people, depriving the poor of even plain bread and the simplest medicines. Basra, Iraq's second largest city, has no potable water supply and little electricity. Epidemics rage, taking away infants and the sick by the thousands. Those children who survive disease succumb to malnutrition, which stunts their physical and mental development. Our situation is unbearable! We appeal to people of conscience to work to end the blockade of Iraq. Let it be known that Resolution 986 (the so-called "oil-for-food" resolution) has served to divert world attention from the tragedy, while in some respects aggravating it. We appeal to listeners to raise their voice and let the facts be known: economic sanctions are targeting none other than infants, the elderly, the sick, and the destitute. As community leaders in southern Iraq we strive to create work opportunities and distribute relief to all the needy, regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation. we live among the people, sharing their pain and attempting to raise their spirit. We are grateful to humanitarian individuals and organizations for their efforts on our behalf. We wish them success and blessing and will remember you all in our prayers. Sincerely, Archbishop Gabriel Kassab

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