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Icelandic Santa brings aid to Iraq

December 26, 1997
Web posted at: 8:07 p.m. EST (0107 GMT)

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A plane carrying food and medicine, along with a Santa Claus bearing toys donated by Icelandic children, landed Friday in Iraq, the second humanitarian aid flight to arrive this week.

The Santa, an unusual sight in this mostly Muslim country, stepped out of the plane with a sack of gifts on his back -- and a political message.

"Stop killing my children," he said, an apparent reference to United Nations' sanctions that the Baghdad regime claims have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi youngsters. "Violence leads to more violence. Stop using children in politics."

The United States and other supporters of U.N. sanctions say the Iraqi regime is responsible for the suffering of its own people because it refuses to comply with the terms of the cease fire that ended the Persian Gulf War. Compliance, they say, is necessary before sanctions can be lifted.

Charities from Iceland, Italy sponsor flight

The aid plane was chartered by the Peace 2000 Institute, an Icelandic charity, in collaboration with an Italian group called Bridge to Baghdad. It landed at al-Habbaniyar air base, 40 miles west of Baghdad, after a day's delay en route because of technical problems.

The flight was cleared by the United Nations, which has allowed humanitarian aid to come into the Iraq despite the embargo.

The head of Peace 2000, Thor Magnusson, said he was calling on world leaders "to stop harming the children, because children are not a political weapon."

The institute had undertaken other humanitarian operations on behalf of children, including those injured by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Belarus and by war in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.

Zhirinovsky sends aid to Baghdad

On Thursday, a Russian plane carrying five tons of medical supplies arrived in Baghdad, a gift from Russian ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who opposes the U.N. sanctions. The flight also received U.N. approval.

"We are not Americans bringing missiles but Russians bringing medicine," said delegation leader Vladimir Mikhael.

The Russian plane was the first to arrive at Baghdad's civilian airport in almost seven years, since sanctions forced the airport to close.

Correspondent Peter Arnett and Reuters contributed to this report.

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