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An Interview with Denis Halliday - Former Assistant Secretary General of The United Nations

Question: What about medical supplies? In January 1999, George Robertson, then defence secretary, said, “Saddam Hussein has in warehouses $275 million worth of medicines and medical supplies which he refuses to distribute.”

Halliday: We have had problems with medical drugs and supplies - there have been delays there. There are several good reasons for that. One, is that often the Iraqi government did some poor contracting; so they contracted huge orders - $5 million of aspirins or something – to some small company that simply couldn’t do the job and had to re-tool and wasted three, four, five months maybe. So that was the first round of mistakes. But secondly, the Sanctions Committee weighed in and they would look at a package of contracts, maybe ten items, and they would deliberately approve nine but block the tenth, knowing full well that without the tenth item the other nine were of no use. Those nine then go ahead – they’re ordered, they arrive - and are stored in warehouses; so naturally the warehouses have stores that cannot in fact be used because they’re waiting for other components that are blocked by the sanctions committee.

(Source: David Edwards, An Interview with Denis Halliday)