"The resignation of two senior United Nations officials this month, in protest against the continuation of economic sanctions on Iraq, has caused political embarrassment to the US and British governments and their policy of maintaining the embargo on the Persian Gulf nation. It has once again brought to public attention the enormous suffering being inflicted on the Iraqi people by the administrations of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President Bill Clinton.
Count Hans von Sponeck is a German career diplomat. He resigned his position as UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq and director of the oil-for-food program on February 13. He had occupied the position since the resignation of his predecessor, Denis Halliday, a former UN assistant secretary-general, who quit the post in September 1998 under similar circumstances. Doctor Jutta Burghardt, head of the UN World Food Program in Iraq, followed von Sponeck the next day.
Sanctions were imposed on Iraq following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Under the terms of UN resolutions, they can only be lifted when Iraq proves to the UN Security Council that it has not only rid itself of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and long-range missiles, but even the “capacity” to make them—an impossible task.
Von Sponeck wanted the Security Council to separate Iraq's humanitarian needs from the UN's demand for the country's disarmament. He was particularly critical of the UN oil-for-food program that allowed the Iraqi government sales of $5.2 billion every six months to help it purchase food, medicine and other essential commodities. A December UN resolution lifted the $5.2 billion cap, but von Sponeck said this was not enough.
Von Sponeck said of the sanctions, “As a UN official, I should not be expected to be silent about that which I recognise as a true human tragedy that needs to be ended. How long [should] the civilian population, which is totally innocent in all this, be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done?"