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U.N.: Coalition Cuts Off Food for Iraqis

GENEVA - A U.N. rights advocate accused U.S.-led coalition troops in
Iraq of cutting off food and water to force civilians to flee before launching attacks on insurgent strongholds — a claim the U.S. military flatly denied.
Jean Ziegler, a U.N. expert on food rights, cited reports from private organizations and the media in making the accusations. He said the Geneva Conventions on warfare, which form the basis of international humanitarian law, forbid denying food to civilians.

"This is a flagrant violation of international law," he told reporters on Friday.

A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, dismissed the criticism as inaccurate.

"Any accusations of coalition forces refusing basic needs from the citizens of Iraq are completely false," he said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.

The 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission appoints outside experts who are assigned countries or subjects and are given wide latitude in their reports. Ziegler first was appointed in 2000 and was given a second three-year mandate by the commission in 2003.

Ziegler conceded the U.S. military saves lives by removing civilians from the line of fire.

"I can understand the military rationale, facing such a horrible enemy, this insurgent, who does not respect any law of war," Ziegler said, pointing to the U.S.-led offensives in Fallujah, Samarra and Tal Afar. "But many civilians cannot come out."

Ziegler said he would present a report later this month to the U.N. General Assembly in New York expressing his "outrage" at the alleged practice and calling on countries to condemn it in a resolution. He cannot submit a U.N. resolution himself.

Most civilians in Fallujah — a city of 300,000 west of Baghdad — fled in advance of a U.S. assault last November.

The Iraqi Red Crescent was the first independent organization to go into the city after two weeks of heavy fighting, during which the U.S. military said it turned back aid convoys because of security risks and was caring for the local people's food and other needs.

Ziegler, a Swiss sociology professor, has had previous run-ins with the United States,
Israel([search]) and other countries.

Three months ago, Ziegler compared the
Gaza([search]) Strip to an "immense concentration camp([search])."

U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan and High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour criticized Ziegler for the comparison.

U.S. officials have accused Ziegler of misusing his mandate to voice his opposition to the war in Iraq.


Associated Press writer Thomas Wagner in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.
-- Mark Twain
Source: "Glances at History" (suppressed)

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