BOSTON, DEC. 24 -- The international embargo against Iraq has gone too far, causing the infant mortality rate there to double, representatives of a Nobel Peace Prize-winning group of physicians said today.
"The embargo is not only working, at this point it is inhumane," said John Pastore, secretary of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
"The blockade is total. No vaccines, no medicines" are reaching Iraq, said William Monning, an attorney and executive director of the group based in Cambridge, Mass.
Monning also said that Jordan, which took in more than 700,000 Kuwaiti refugees, has had problems receiving aid. Pastore said sanctions against Iraq have led to a shortage of milk for infants and medicines for the general public.
Five members of the physicians' group -- three from the United States, one from the Soviet Union, and one from Germany -- took an eight-day tour of medical and health centers in the Persian Gulf, including centers in Baghdad. Several participants returned to Boston Saturday.
The group, which received the peace prize in 1985, said embargoes against Iraq have not been limited to economic and military supplies, but also foods and medicines considered exempt for humanitarian reasons.
Officially, medicine is not embargoed under the U.N. sanctions and food may be sent in if the U.N. Security Council's committee on sanctions decides it is needed for humanitarian purposes.
The committee has allowed several shipments of food to foreign nationals who were running short on provisions, but not any for the general public in Iraq or Kuwait.
The Iraqis claim that despite the exemption of medicine, the naval and air embargo is halting shipments of medicine. And they say babies are endangered by shortages of formula.
Some Western diplomats in Baghdad are skeptical about the Iraqi claim on medicine, suggesting that medicine is being diverted from the civilian population to the army.
Bernard Lown, co-president of the physicians group, said he realizes the U.N. embargo does not include medical supplies, but still they are not getting through.
"We could see the end result," he said. "Too many doctors, the Red Cross, UNICEF, do not have drugs in Baghdad today."
Lown said medical workers told him suppliers would not sell medicine to them. "Nobody's stopping the drugs, but nobody's selling them," he added.
Pastore said the physicians group will ask the United Nations to reevaluate the embargoes. "We think the United Nations should investigate the situation, because it's a violation of the Geneva Convention and all other humanitarian conventions to embargo humanitarian supplies," Pastore said.
He said 32,000 tons of dried milk paid for by Iraq sits in Turkey because of the sanctions, and that the scarcity has driven the price in Iraq up to about $21 for two quarts.
The physicians group representatives met political leaders in Jordan and spoke with Parliament members in Iraq. They did not meet with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but "we are hoping the physicians there will influence the Iraq government," Lown said.
The group said Iraqi physicians promised them to fight to end the production of nuclear and biological weapons in the Middle East. A group chapter was set up in Iraq during the trip, bringing the group's total number of affiliates worldwide to 70.
Pastore, Lown and Monning were joined on the tour by Ulrich Gottstein of Germany, the group's vice president for Europe, and Sergei Kolesnikov of the Soviet Union.