'No change' on oil-for-foodWednesday, 16 February, 2000
The US Government said on Tuesday the United Nation oil-for-food programme will continue despite the resignations of two senior UN officials in Baghdad.
The officials, who are both local heads of UN humanitarian programmes, said they had resigned because of concerns about the effects of UN sanctions on Iraqi civilians.
But State Department spokesman James Rubin said: "Because the leaders have made these decisions doesn't mean that the work won't continue."
Mr Rubin said they were "well intentioned" but they "should direct their concern and their blame-casting at the Iraqi regime which refuses day after day, time after time, to spend its hard currency helping its own people."
Sanctions under fire
The head of the World Food Programme, Jutta Burghart, resigned on Tuesday to protest against the failure of the UN's relief programmes.
The announcement of her resignation came just days after the UN's top humanitarian official, Hans Von Sponeck, did the same.
Senior UN aid workers have strongly criticised UN economic sanctions, saying they are causing severe damage to civilians in Iraq.
The oil-for-food programme was established in December 1996 to ease hardship on Iraqi civilians after the imposition of sanctions in August 1990.
The sanctions were intended to punish Iraq for invading Kuwait and force it to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction.
It was established in December 1996 embargo was imposed after the Gulf War
A UN spokesman confirmed that Jutta Burghart wrote her letter of resignation several days ago.
The spokesman said she had decided to step down because of concerns similar to the ones expressed by Mr Von Sponeck.
Mr Von Sponeck said he resigned because he had lost hope that conditions would improve for Iraqi civilians.
He told an Arab satellite station that the latest Security Council resolution, passed in December and covering the UN's humanitarian programmes, was unworkable and would not ease the human tragedy in Iraq.
Mr Von Sponeck has dismissed strong criticism from US officials, who say he has bought into the propaganda of the Iraqi government.
He said on Monday that his views are widely shared by his colleagues, and that conditions had reached a point where it was no longer acceptable to keep his mouth shut.
The media in some Arab countries have meanwhile continued to criticise the UN sanctions.
Newspapers in the United Emirates and in Qatar said the resignations were proof of what they called the human tragedy in Iraq.