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Pacifist Group Free to Send Medicines To Iraq

March 25, 1991

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ A plane-load of pain killers, heart drugs and other medicine will be allowed to fly to Baghdad after being delayed several days in a permit dispute, a peace group announced Monday.

But the Fellowship of Reconciliation remains dissatisfied with U.S. State Department regulations concerning aid to Iraq, the organization’s attorney said.

The 5,000 pounds of medication worth $181,000 was detained at New York’s Kennedy Airport on Friday because the group lacked a license from the Treasury Department to ship the goods, attorney Beth Stephens said at a news conference.

Last week, the U.N. Security Council lifted a ban on sending food and other necessities to Iraq. Medicines were exempt from the U.N. trade embargo imposed shortly after Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.

On Monday, a spokeswoman for the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the arm of the U.S. Treasury responsible for policing trade embargos, said the license had been granted.

The spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Fellowship of Reconciliation application was received March 15, and the week it took to process the request was not unusual.

But Ms. Stephens took issue with the State Department ground rules, including a requirement that the aid be channeled through specific agencies.

″Our ultimate goal is to have the United States government pull out of the business of saying who can and cannot provide assistance and in what way,″ she said. She said it was too early to say if court action would be needed.

The U.S. regulations require donors to detail the contents of medical shipments and the recipients.

The shipment from the Nyack, N.Y.-based group is intended for the Iraqi Red Crescent and a children’s hospital in Baghdad. The plane is scheduled to leave Saturday.

Human rights activist Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general, claimed at the news conference that the government was deliberately trying to keep aid from Iraq.

″For the United States of America, which inflicted the harm in the first place ... for it to then have the cruelty and audacity to seize medical supplies going to the sick is barbaric,″ he said.

Clark made a widely publicized trip to Iraq in early February and returned with reports of civilian suffering under the trade embargo.

On Monday, he said he believed at least 25,000 Iraqis were killed in the war and ″thousands and thousands″ more injured.

Francois Giuliani, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, said Monday that the delay of the medical shipment was ″regrettable.″

But he added that the blocking of the Fellowship of Reconciliation shipment ″could be due to a delay in transmitting orders.″

Those who ship good in violation of U.S. regulations face fines of up to $1 million and prison sentences of up to three years.

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