Sanctions have caused 1.6 million deaths, Iraq claims

Iraq's state news agency says 1.6 million people have died since UN sanctions imposed in 1990.

The economic sanctions the UN placed on Iraq over a decade ago have caused more than 1.6 million deaths in that country, the Iraqi state news agency (INA) said Friday.

The agency, quoting a letter from Iraq's UN mission to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said 1,614,203 people have died since sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990. Of that number, 667,773 of the dead are children under the age of five, INA said.

The letter also claims that in 1989, the year before the sanctions were imposed, only 258 children under five died in Iraq.

The sanctions were the UN Security Council's punishment for Iraq's 1989 invasion of Kuwait. Under the council's blueprint, even purchases of medicine and medical equipment must be approved. Delays in those approvals, particularly from the United States and Britain, have led to many of the deaths, INA quotes the letter as saying.

The letter also maintains that sanctions have crippled Iraq's infrastructure, and caused a dramatic drop in the country's standard of living.

The U.S. and Britain have been pushing the council to rewrite the sanctions plan since June, but Russia has opposed the idea. The London-Washington plan would retain the ban on Iraqi purchases of military hardware, but ease the restrictions on civilian goods.

Baghdad wants the sanctions lifted all together.