U.S. Accused of Blocking Medical Relief Plane

| April 2003

A British aid agency, Save the Children, yesterday accused the United States of unnecessarily refusing children access to essential supplies after American military officials denied landing privileges to a British plane carrying medical aid to Arbil, Iraq.

According to BBC radio and Aljazeera web reports, U.S. officials told Save the Children that the trip was ?risky for civilian planes.? But agency spokesman Brendan Paddy said that landing in Arbil is ?as safe as landing in parts of London,? and speculated that American officials have ?other priorities,? because American planes have been granted access to the area. Paddy warned that such restrictions are in violation of the Geneva Convention. The supplies?enough to help 40,000 people for three months ?will benefit damaged and looted hospitals. Military officials hope to allow the plane to land ?within days.?

Meanwhile, convoys transporting 100 tons of food for the World Food Program have been hindered by ?bureaucratic delays? involved with transporting the supplies to Iraq via Iranian borders that have been closed since the start of the war. Although the food distribution has been delayed, 102,000 liters of drinking water provided by UNICEF have successfully crossed the Iran/Iraq border. Military officials say a ?local religious leader? will help distribution the water to the Iraqi people.

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