Allies Protest Military Activities in Southern Iraq
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ A top U.N. official says Iraqi troops tried to deceive the United Nations by temporarily withdrawing troops that have surrounded Shiite Muslim refugees hiding in the marshes of southern Iraq.
The troops returned to the marshes near the Iranian border a few days after a U.N. mission visited the area to check on the refugees, diplomats said Friday.
The U.S., French and British ambassadors summoned Iraqi Ambassador Abdul Amir al-Anbari on Friday to protest the redeployment, which included positioning machine-gun nests and establishing checkpoints in the marshes.
″They were interfering with the efforts of the U.N. to set up humanitarian centers and to bring relief in the south,″ said Britain’s ambassador, Sir David Hannay.
Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, who oversees U.N. humanitarian efforts in the Persian Gulf, visited the area July 11 and announced he was setting up a humanitarian center for the refugees at Hammar, at the edge of the marshes.
Sadruddin said Monday that Iraqi authorities had ordered U.N. staff members to leave Hammar, saying their presence was no longer needed as they had finished distributing food aid.
Sadruddin wrote to Iraqi Foreign Minister Ahmed Hussein Khader this week complaining that troops were again sent in as the U.N. staff was leaving.
″A heavy military presence was redeployed to take up the same positions which had obviously been vacated (during) the duration of our visit,″ read a copy of Sadruddin’s letter obtained by The Associated Press.
″Furthermore, my United Nations staff which had remained in Hammar together with the United Nations guards to assist the local authorities in distributing the contents of our convoy were summarily requested to leave the area.
″They complied ... but not before noting carefully that military checkpoints and gun emplacements had been reinstalled every 50 meters along the lakeside and that checkpoints had also been reinstated every 500 meters along the main road to Hammar.″
The letter warned that Iraqi actions will ″constitute a further negative element″ when the U.N. Security Council considers Iraq’s request to ease sanctions.
Sadruddin goes to U.N. headquarters in New York Monday to present his recommendations that an embargo should be eased to let Iraq use its funds to buy essential food, medicines and spare parts.
Sadruddin set up the mission at Hammar after receiving reports that up to 70,000 Shiites might be hiding in the marshes, fearing retaliation for their failed uprising against President Saddam Hussein.
Iran last month accused Iraq of preparing to massacre the Shiites. Iraq denied it.
The marshes have traditionally been a haven for Shiite guerrillas and Iraqi army deserters.