Hussein endures as children starve in a crippled nation WAR IN THE GULF


July 28, 1991|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Sun Staff Correspondent

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The heat grasps this city like the reign of Saddam Hussein: suffocating, unwelcome and unlikely to change.

pursue my ambitions here. I don't feel repressed."

A different president might not continue those social benefits. Mr. Hussein owes his reign in part to the mutual suspicion among the three main groups in Iraq -- the Kurds, Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims -- about who would be his replacement.

Also, the anger over the sanctions is directed at the United States, not Mr. Hussein. Iraqis say the allies know the poor and middle-class suffer. Mr. Hussein and his generals will not starve.

Uday Hussein, the president's son, remains a swaggering regular at the Al-Rasheed Hotel nightclub. The fashionable Karrada district, where one can still buy French lingerie and Taster's Choice coffee, is busy with shoppers from an elite class unbothered by the economic stress.

But at a hospital for children in Baghdad, the chief doctor unlocks his desk and pulls out a box of 50 catheters. This is all he has left for the intravenous injections at his hospital, he said. The boycott has squeezed off the supply.

At the Al-Doura power plant in southern Baghdad, Fayik Mustafa laments the lack of parts from Italy held up by the sanctions. With the parts, his engineers could fix the third of four bombed generators and provide reliable power for 80,000 households.

"What do you have against us?" he asked in arms-outstretched exasperation. "OK, the war. You bomb power plants. But it's finished. Now the sanctions hurt the people."

A U.N. review team agrees. This month, it recommended that Iraq's overseas accounts be unfrozen and Iraq be allowed to sell just enough oil to pay for food, medicine and parts for civilian uses.

"The bottom line is the sanctions were never designed to make the people of Iraq suffer in a way we have noted they are suffering," said Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the head of the delegation.

But Iraq has not fulfilled its promises under the cease-fire agreement. It has squirmed desperately to hide its nuclear-weapons research; it has tried to hoodwink and shoot at U.N. inspectors; its army is putting new pressure on the Shiites and Kurds.

Last week, the U.N. Security Council delayed action on loosening the sanctions partly because of those concerns.

"Iraq wants to drag it out in some vague hope that people will forget about it," said a diplomat here.

A member of the U.N. committee that discussed some compromise arrangements to ease sanctions with Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi deputy prime minister, was surprised at his recalcitrance.

In rejecting oversight rules proposed by the committee, the member said, Mr. Aziz drew on his large cigar and replied: "We'd rather starve."

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