EU plan for Iraq airlift ‘misguided’

Plans to airlift wounded Iraqi civilians to hospitals in Europe, announced during last week’s top-level European Union meetings in Athens, are well-intentioned but misguided, an international medical group working in Baghdad said yesterday. Doctor Jean-Baptiste Richardier, co-founder of the group Handicap International – which shared the 1997 Nobel peace prize with US activist Jody Williams for its work against land mines – told Agence France-Presse the announcement could cause more harm than good. «No one doubts the generosity of the intentions of the offer,» he said. «But I believe it is ill-informed about the reality of the situation here in the hospitals.» Richardier said the plans, made public on Wednesday by French President Jacques Chirac, created «desperate expectations» among Iraqis wounded during the US-British invasion, which could not be met. This generated aggressiveness and anger in Baghdad hospitals, and hampered doctors’ work. He urged the EU to specify how many people it intended to take in,«100, 200, 1,000 or just a few kids.»