WASHINGTON -- The United States said yesterday that it had new evidence showing that President Saddam Hussein had spent money to build a sprawling amusement park to entertain his political followers instead of feeding hungry Iraqis.
In a report intended to convince other governments to retain tough economic sanctions against Iraq, the State Department said the entertainment complex was detected in aerial photographs.
"Despite its claims that the people of Iraq are dying due to a lack of food and medicine, Saddam Hussein doesn't hesitate to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for the entertainment of Baath Party officials and cadres," said James P. Rubin, the State Department spokesman.
The report was released two days before a meeting in London in which the United States and Britain will try to persuade China, France and Russia to support a U.N. Security Council resolution to renew international weapons inspections in Iraq.
For years, Baghdad has insisted that economic sanctions have resulted in malnutrition and a shortage of basic medicines. The sanctions were to remain in place until Iraq proved that it had dismantled its means to make chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
But the State Department said that shortages of food and medicine were the fault of Baghdad, which has stockpiled food and medicine purchased under a U.N. oil-for-food program instead of distributing it. And billions of dollars made available to Iraq to buy food and medicine under the program have gone unspent.
"The government has failed to distribute about 50 percent of the medicine, 60 percent of the supplies for clean water and agriculture, and 40 percent for education," Rubin said. "Hussein is clearly not allowing the food, medicine and water to be distributed that would improve the lot of the Iraqi people.
Pub Date: 9/14/99