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Iraq Says Blockade Has Killed 2,000 Children

IRAQ said yesterday that shortages of food and medicine caused by United Nations sanctions has killed 2,042 Iraqi children under the age of five since August. ``These deaths occurred during the past four months because of the unavailability of the necessary [medical] treatment, malnutrition ... and shortages of vaccines,'' said Health Minister Abdul Salam Muhammad Saeed, according to the Iraqi News Agency.

The UN Security Council imposed an economic blockade to force Baghdad to withdraw from Kuwait which it seized Aug. 2.

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Mr. Saeed said Iraq had already paid for 164 shipments of medicine and medical equipment before the invasion. These shipments have been stopped and detained at world ports or returned to their original factories.

Separately, Algerian President Chadli Benjedid left Tunis for home yesterday at the end of a Middle East tour that took him to nine countries in a week, but failed to produce a breakthrough on peace in the Gulf.

Mr. Chadli, whose country is a veteran mediator in Middle East disputes, was unable to visit Saudi Arabia. That country is central to the Gulf crisis as the probable base for any United States-led attack on Iraq after the UN deadline for withdrawal from Kuwait expires Jan. 15. Algeria played down expectations that the trip would produce results, saying Chadli was not carrying a peace plan or any Algerian initiatives.

Also yesterday, US Secretary of State James Baker III said yesterday he was heartened by the unity of the NATO alliance in rejecting a partial withdrawal from Kuwait as a solution to the Gulf crisis.

Arriving for the second day of a NATO foreign ministers' meeting, Mr. Baker told reporters Iraq had offered no new date for him to visit Baghdad for talks with President Saddam Hussein and that the peace mission remained stalled.

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