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Year 2001 No. 40, March 2, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

Week-Long Picket Calling for End to Iraq Sanctions a Great Success

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Week-Long Picket Calling for End to Iraq Sanctions a Great Success

Gulf War Veterans March in London

Ministers Misled Commons over DU Shell Rules

Iraqi Communist Party Condemns the Air Strikes

Bigger Profits for Biggest Bank

Proscribed List on which Jack Straw in a "Draft order" has placed DHKP-C, PKK and other organisations

The World in Brief

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Week-Long Picket Calling for End to Iraq Sanctions a Great Success

A 24-hour week-long picket was held outside the House of Commons between Thursday February 22 to Wednesday February 28, 2001. It was held to mark the 10th anniversary of the ending of the Gulf War and called for an end to sanctions on Iraq. The picket took place along the pavement of Parliament Square, London, directly opposite the Houses of Parliament.

WDIE spoke with Stuart Halford, Director of the Mariam Appeal, which organised the picket. The principal objective of the Mariam Appeal is to campaign against sanctions on Iraq, which are having disastrous effects on the ordinary people of Iraq. The Mariam Appeal is named after Mariam Hamza, the four-year-old Iraqi leukaemia patient brought to Britain in 1998.

WDIE: Was the picket successful?

SH: It was a great success. The weather was very, very cold. But people participated in the picket for 24 hours a day for the whole week, which was the coldest week of the year. The amount of support was phenomenal from passers by, from MPs, and even from the police, many of whom said that they would support the action if not in uniform.

The picket was rounded off with a mass meeting in the House of Commons: "No More War! No More Sanctions!". So many came to this rally that we had to book Committee Room 14, which is the largest in the Commons. There must have been the best part of 500 people there. They heard speeches from John Pilger, Tony Benn, George Galloway, Tam Dalyell, Victoria Brittain of The Guardian, and Dr Mazin al-Jumah who is chairman of the Iraq-Britain friendship society in Baghdad.

WDIE: Did many people participate in the picket?

SH: Yes. Altogether over 1,000 people attended the picket. During the day the regular numbers were around 100 – sometimes 200, sometimes 50. Overnight around half a dozen would be on the picket.

We provided hot tea and coffee, which were very much appreciated. Other people provided soup, others cake or dinners, and even the passers-by would assist. Sometimes it is very easy to lose faith in humanity. But the will of people is so good, it gives you hope, that can go on from here, and put enough pressure on the British government, which is in a major dilemma on Iraq. Hopefully, the time will soon come when they will have to back down, stop the bombing and lift the sanctions.

WDIE: What is the next stage of the campaign?

SH: We have been very focused on making the picket and rally successful. The next stage is to keep on applying the pressure. This is the main thing we have to do. The level of support will not have gone unnoticed, especially by those at the House of Commons. Sanctions have to end, because 6,000 children are dying every single month. Tony Blair is kow-towing to Bush like no other Prime Minister in history.

Article Index

Gulf War Veterans March in London

About 80 Gulf War veterans and their families led a solemn march through London on February 24 to commemorate the British troops who died as a result of the 1991 war and to call for a government inquiry into war-related illnesses. The veterans walked in silence from Westminster Abbey to lay wreaths at the Cenotaph on the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the ground campaign against Saddam Hussein's Iraqi forces.

The march was led by two young children. Ellie Perham, six, of St Albans, and Roxy Meens, seven, of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, who carried laurel branches as a sign of peace as they marched with the veterans and families of the dead.

Roxy's father Stephen died in 1999 of a heart attack at the age of 38 and his family believe the death was as a result of his suffering during the Gulf War.

The National Gulf War Veterans and Families Association, which organised the commemoration, said close to 500 British military personnel have died as a result of the conflict. Forty-nine British soldiers were killed during the six-week war.

The dead include suicides and victims of Gulf War Syndrome, the name for a wide array of symptoms including headache, depression, asthma and chronic fatigue.

According to veterans groups, about 3,000 British Gulf veterans claim to suffer from the syndrome. Many blame the potent cocktail of vaccines they were given to ward off potential Iraqi chemical and biological weapons attacks. Depleted uranium shells have also recently come under suspicion as being responsible for deaths and illnesses of the soldiers, as well as of the Iraqi people themselves.

Shaun Rusling, chairman of the National Gulf War Veteran and Families Association said, "Our ultimate aim is to get proper care for victims of the Gulf War because if this country wants to send people to fight for them it is their responsibility to look after them when they return if they get ill." He said 526 people had died during or as a result of the Gulf War and the government was refusing to recognise the illnesses suffered by the people fighting in Iraq. He said: "The purpose is to commemorate the loss of all those lives caused by the Gulf War and to make the Government listen before many more people die."

Article Index

Ministers Misled Commons over DU Shell Rules

It has emerged that the government misled the House of Commons over the alleged safety of depleted uranium and the arrangements for regulating the firing of DU shells at an army range in south west Scotland.

The Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, misinformed the Commons in January when he said that the use of DU at the Dundrennan range near Kirkcudbright is governed by radioactive waste legislation. While that same month the Armed Forces Minister, John Spellar, told MPs that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has "oversight" of the DU firing programme, when it does not.

In a statement to the House of Commons on January 9, John Spellar said that the Environment Agency in England and Wales and SEPA in Scotland "have oversight of the firing programme". SEPA insisted this was wrong because it has no legal control over MoD activities at Dundrennan.

An MoD spokesman finally accepted that the minister had made a mistake. "Oversight is probably the wrong word," he said. "Sight would have been better." Senior SEPA officials say that if the agency had "oversight" and had been asked to authorise the MoD's plan to dump 28 tonnes of DU from Dundrennan into the Solway Firth, it would have rejected it.

SEPA says that its inability to regulate the MoD "has been gnawing away at the heart of environmental policy for years".

Alisdair Morgan, the SNP MP and MSP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, accused ministers of being deliberately misleading. "They are obviously trying to give the impression that they are regulated by much stricter controls than is actually the case," he said.

Faults in the firing of depleted uranium shells have caused radioactive contamination in breach of safety limits at a military testing range in south-west Scotland, according to unpublished Ministry of Defence reports.

Instead of plunging into the Solway Firth, up to two dozen shells have hit the ground, generating clouds of toxic DU dust.

These revelations have prompted widespread condemnation from experts and environmentalists. They accuse the MoD of endangering human health and the environment, and of blocking the release of information by its "culture of secrecy".

"Nearly 30 tonnes of this stuff in the sea is a disaster waiting to happen," said John Large, an independent nuclear consultant who advises the government. "It may not happen this year, or next year, but sooner or later it will end up in the food chain. What they have done is outrageous and irresponsible."

Since 1996, 12 areas of the Dundrennan site have been significantly contaminated with DU from misfired shells. Soil samples taken from the Raeberry range, where most misfiring has occurred, have frequently breached the MoD's own internal "investigation level" of 300 millibecquerels of radiation per gram.

To test their range and accuracy, the shells are fired from Challenger tanks over several kilometres at canvas targets erected on the cliffs.

They are meant to pierce the canvas and drop into the sea, but up to two dozen since 1982 - including three since 1995 - have fallen short and hit the ground instead.

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Iraqi Communist Party Condemns the Air Strikes

The Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party issued a letter on February 20, 2001, which said:

Dear Comrades,

Our country was subjected on the night of 16 February 2001 to a new Anglo-American aggression, as US and British war planes bombed several sites in the capital Baghdad, injuring innocent civilians, inflicting damage to installations and spreading fear and horror among our people without justification.

Our Party condemned, as it has done every time, this criminal act which reveals the US administration's obstinate and unrealistic policy in dealing with the Iraqi issue. This policy has aimed at using the complexities of this to serve US strategy and its special schemes in the Middle East, regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, and denying the Palestinian people their right to establish their independent national state with Jerusalem as its capital.

This aggression comes as part of the series of air raids which have been going on for ten years and has provided the dictatorial rulers in our country with pretexts to be used for winning sympathy and diverting attention from the suffering of our people as a result of repression and terror.

Our Iraqi Communist Party believes that military acts and air strikes cannot resolve the Iraqi issue, that is if they won’t further complicate and prolong it. As such, they not only harm our people but even provide the dictatorial regime with more opportunities to capitalise on the situation with demagogic slogans. For the regime deliberately escalates tension and stirs up crises and confrontations as an attempt to get out of the state of impasse in its relationship with the UN.

It is time that an end is put to these brutal practices, and that means are found which respond to the legitimate aspirations of our people and are in accordance with international law to resolve the problems faced by our country.

While wishing to inform you about the grave developments in our country, we look forward to intensifying your solidarity with our Iraqi people in their struggle for salvation from the international economic blockade and dictatorial rule, putting an end to the influence of international powers in our country's affairs, and establishing the democratic alternative which ensures peace and stability in Iraq and the region.

Central Committee Iraqi Communist Party

Arbil - Iraqi Kurdistan

Article Index

Bigger Profits for Biggest Bank

Global banking group HSBC, which is based in Britain, has reported a 22 per cent rise in profits. Pretax profits for the year to December 31 rose to £6.7 billion, up from £5.5 billion for the previous year.

Sir John Bond, chairman, said the year had been one of "exciting developments" and had been marked by "organic growth, by the integration of recent acquisitions and by important new initiatives". He said developments during the year had included buying French bank CCF, and joining forces with Merrill Lynch to establish an online broking and banking service for the affluent. The bank also launched Internet banking in Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore, the US and Canada, he said.

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Proscribed List on which Jack Straw in a "Draft order" has placed DHKP-C, PKK and other organisations

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, on February 28 laid a draft Order, under section 123(4)(a) of the Terrorism Act, recommending to Parliament that the following organisations be added to the list of proscribed organisations in Schedule 2 to the Act:

* Al-Qa'ida
* Egyptian Islamic Jihad
* Al-Gama'at al-Islamiya
* Armed Islamic Group (Groupe Islamique Arme) (GIA)
* Salafist Group for Call and Combat (Groupe Salafiste pour la Prdication et le Combat) (GSPC)
* Babbar Khalsa
* International Sikh Youth Federation
* Harakat Mujahideen
* Jaish e Mohammed
* Lashkar e Tayyaba
* Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
* Hizballah External Security Organisation
* Hamas-Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades
* Palestinian Islamic Jihad - Shaqaqi
* Abu Nidal Organisation
* Islamic Army of Aden
* Mujaheddin e Khalq
* Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan) (PKK)
* Revolutionary Peoples' Liberation Party - Front (Devrimci Halk Kurtulus Partisi - Cephesi) (DHKP-C)
* Basque Homeland and Liberty (Euskadi ta Askatasuna) (ETA)
* 17 November Revolutionary Organisation (N17)

In a press release from the Home Office, the Home Secretary states: "Under section 3(3)(a) of the Act, I may by order add an organisation to Schedule 2, where I believe that it is concerned in terrorism, as defined in section 1 of the Act. I am entirely satisfied that the organisations named above are ‘concerned in terrorism’ as set out in section 3(5) of the Act, and have, after careful consideration, decided to exercise my discretion to proscribe them. The draft Order is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. There will therefore be a debate in both Houses on my recommendations. If approved by Parliament, the proscriptions will take effect on the day after I sign the Order. To assist consideration by both Houses, I have placed in the Libraries, the Vote Office, and the Printed Paper Office, copies of a Note setting out a brief summary in respect of each organisation named in the draft Order.

"The Act provides for an appeal process. After the Order comes into force, it will be open for any of the organisations so proscribed, or any person affected by their proscription, to make application to me for deproscription. If that application is refused, the Act provides for an appeal to a new independent tribunal, the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, established by the Terrorism Act."

The following have already been designated as proscribed organisations under the Act:

* The Irish Republican Army.
* Cumann na mBan.
* Fianna na hEireann.
* The Red Hand Commando.
* Saor Eire.
* The Ulster Freedom Fighters.
* The Ulster Volunteer Force.
* The Irish National Liberation Army.
* The Irish People's Liberation Organisation.
* The Ulster Defence Association.
* The Loyalist Volunteer Force.
* The Continuity Army Council.
* The Orange Volunteers.
* The Red Hand Defenders.

Article Index

The World in Brief

28 Feb – 5 Mar ITALY: A team led by North Korean Minister of Metallurgical and Machine Building Industry Jon Sung Hun pays the first visit by a North Korean delegation to Italy after the two countries established diplomatic relations a year ago.

1-2 March ARGENTINA: The General Confederation of Labour (CGT) holds 36-hour strike to demand an increase in the minimum wage and an unemployment subsidy and to oppose the privatisation of health services.

5-7 March BELARUS: Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo visits, to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin on the situation in Africa, co-operation in international organisations and political and economic relations.

6-8 March SPAIN: The National Association of Specialist Junior Doctors (ANFEI) has called a partial strike in public hospitals in protest at job insecurity.

6-10 March USA/SOUTH KOREA: South Korean President Kim Dae Jung in Washington for talks with US President George W Bush (7th), and in Chicago to meet Korean residents and business leaders (9th).

8 March FRANCE: German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer visits for talks with Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine on EU enlargement, agricultural policy and security and defence issues.

8 March COLOMBIA: Representatives from the USA, Cuba, the EU, Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Chile and the international community meet government and FARC representatives to discuss the peace process in the demilitarised zone.

8 March: International Women’s Day.

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