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Former UN Man Warns of Afghan 'Catastrophe'

"Mr Powell US Secretary of State has said that the evidence against bin Laden and al-Qaeda would not stand up in court. If it won't stand up in court, how the hell can it justify bombing?" - Denis Halliday, former assistant Secretary-General of the UN
- Published on Wednesday, November 7, 2001 in The Irish Times

A former top official with the United Nations has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan "in the next couple of weeks".

Mr Denis Halliday, a native of Dublin and a former assistant secretary-general of the UN, dismissed claims by the US-led alliance that maximum precautions were being taken to avoid civilian casualties in the war.

"When you bomb cities, the Red Cross, a few hospitals, and you use cluster bombs, then you cannot be taken seriously. Cluster bombs are designed to kill people," said Mr Halliday, who was in Dublin to give a public lecture.

He joined the UN in the early 1960s and in 1997 was appointed head of humanitarian operations in Iraq, but resigned in a protest over sanctions a year later. "I did not want to be complicit in what I considered genocide on the part of the Security Council."

He said the bombing of Afghanistan was a case of "punishing the people in the misbelief that it will lead to the overthrow of the government".

The Afghan war was illegal and could not be justified on the basis of self-defense."Mr Powell US Secretary of State has said that the evidence against bin Laden and al-Qaeda would not stand up in court. If it won't stand up in court, how the hell can it justify bombing?"

He was critical of Ireland's role in the presidency of the UN Security Council. "Like the 2,000 people who marched in Dublin on Saturday and many others, I am disappointed that the Irish Government didn't guide the Security Council more wisely."

After the attacks on September 11th, Ireland should have demanded that the US and the UN "respond in keeping with the UN Charter" - legally and non-violently.

He was skeptical about the Government's claim to have given special consideration to the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. "When you have the presidency you control the agenda. When Trócaire asked our government to try to get the Americans to suspend the bombing, they were turned down. So I don't understand what humanitarian consideration they actually had."

The UN Secretary-General, Mr Annan, had "blindly supported" the US, as had the Taoiseach in granting American access to Shannon Airport, he said.
 
 

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