Iraq balks at Red Cross access

USA TODAY
January 30, 1991, Wednesday, FINAL EDITION
BYLINE: Tom Squitieri
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 2A
LENGTH: 234 words

The push to get International Red Cross workers access to prisoners of war in Iraq took on new urgency Tuesday when Baghdad Radio reported that an allied POW died in a U.S.-led air raid.

So far, however, negotiations have been fruitless. ”There is nothing at this point,” said Red Cross spokeswoman Ann Stingle. The Red Cross wouldn’t comment on the death report because
it hadn’t been verified, but Stingle said: ”I can speak with every assurance that the Red Cross is continually pressing for access.”

Iraq has offered limited access to POWs – most likely controlled meetings with guards or others present – but the Red Cross rejected the offer.

Stingle said the group wants full access, including visits to holding sites and time alone with prisoners.

”There is so much attention at this point, they (the Red Cross and Iraq) need to carry out those discussions as quietly as possible,” Stingle said.

Last week Iraq said it was sending allied POWs to strategic targets of bombers, a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Jean de Courten, a senior Red Cross official in Geneva, said some Iraqi officials abroad have indicated Baghdad might abide by the Third Geneva Convention, which governs POW treatment.

But de Courten stressed that no official in Baghdad has given any assurance that captured pilots would be treated according to humanitarian laws.