GENEVA, Switzerland, March 3 (UPI) -- A top Iraqi Kurdish official protested Monday against U.S. and Western indifference to appeals for protective equipment for his countrymen at risk from chemical warfare attacks by Iraq.
Dr. Shafiq Qazzaz, responsible for humanitarian aid in the part of Iraqi Kurdistan under the control of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, reminded journalists that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had already used chemical weapons on Kurds with devastating effect in the 1980s and might do so again in the widely expected U.S.-led war to topple him.
Nevertheless, Qazzaz said, the United States and its allies have ignored his calls for gas masks and protective clothing for civilians.
Qazzaz said he had raised his concerns so far with Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark as well as the United States but with no results. He said he would also be making an appeal for help in London and Brussels.
"On the question of masks and protective suits I have not had any positive response," he told reporters. He said that some officials he appealed to have told him they could not do anything until hostilities break out, which, he said, may be too late.
Qazzaz, in Geneva for a series of meeting with U.N. humanitarian agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross, said he did not need any convincing that Saddam had such weapons and would use them if he had a chance.
Antonella Notari, Red Cross spokeswoman, told United Press International, "Unfortunately a humanitarian organization like ICRC does not have an answer in terms of providing protective gear."
She said the ICRC reminds all belligerents such weapons are outlawed.
Experts in humanitarian aid, speaking on condition of anonymity, told UPI responsibility for protecting populations from weapons of mass destruction lies with governments. However, most governments don't have the full gear for civilians, noted one expert.
On humanitarian aid contingencies, Qazzaz said he expects access to Iraqi Kurdistan to be difficult during a war and pointed out that access to the region from neighboring Turkey was already almost wholly shut down.