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U.S. Accused of Cutting Off Food

October 15, 2005|From Reuters

GENEVA — A United Nations human rights investigator Friday accused U.S. and British forces in Iraq of breaching international law by depriving civilians of food and water in besieged cities as they try to flush out militants.

The U.S. military denied the accusation and said that although supplies were sometimes disrupted by fighting, food was never deliberately withheld.

Jean Ziegler, a former Swiss sociology professor who is the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, said the Geneva Convention barred military forces from using "starvation of civilians as a method of warfare."

But he said that in Fallouja, Tall Afar and Samarra, Iraqi and U.S.-led forces had cut off or restricted food and water to encourage residents to flee before assaults on entrenched Sunni insurgents over the last year.

Army Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, said, "Any allegations of us withholding basic needs from the Iraqi people are false. There have in the past ... been some supplies that have been delayed due to combat.... It does not do relief supplies any good if you have them going into a firefight."

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