War In Iraq Could Kill
Up To Four Million
By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) - A war against Iraq could escalate into a nuclear conflict that would kill nearly four million people and have catastrophic health and environmental consequences, medical experts said on Tuesday.
Even without nuclear weapons, as many as half a million people could die, civil war, famine and epidemics could occur, oil fields may be set ablaze and the entire region could be embroiled in the conflict.
Many more people would probably be displaced, economic collapse in Iraq could ensue and soaring oil prices could trigger a global economic crisis, according to global health organisation Medact.
"The need to ensure that Iraq is disarmed of its weapons does not warrant a war," said Gill Reeve, the assistant director of the group of doctors, nurses and health experts.
In a report, Medact considered how the substantial use of chemical and biological weapons (CBW) might trigger a nuclear response.
"An Iraqi CBW attack on Israel or elsewhere could provoke immediate nuclear retaliation from Israel, the U.S. and/or UK while the UK and U.S. have not ruled out the nuclear first-strike option," it noted.
Reeve told Reuters: "We're making a last ditch effort to make people see reason, to think about the consequences."
Medact argues that other options are available and described the massive death and destruction a war with Iraq would cause.
In a report that examines the impact of the war from a public health perspective, the group warns that any conflict against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is likely to drag on, would cost as much as $200 billion and leave Iraq in ruins.
"The US goal of leadership change is counterbalanced by Saddam Hussein's goal of survival, so a short, clinical campaign is probably wishful thinking," it said.
Saddam has until Friday to cooperate with a United Nations resolution to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction programmes or face the consequences.
Iraq's parliament voted on Tuesday to reject the resolution but ultimately the final decision will be Saddam's.
U.S. officials have said they are sceptical he will comply and President George W. Bush has already approved a war plan to oust the Iraqi leader.
Based on data from the Gulf War, comparable conflicts and information from political sources, the Medact report entitled Collateral Damage envisions air attacks on government and military facilities in Iraq, followed by ground forces to seize control of oil-producing regions and the north of Iraq and then more ground and air attacks to take the capital Baghdad.
The report, which is available on, warns that Saddam could retaliate by setting fire to oil wells, releasing chemical, radiological or biological weapons or by launching attacks on Kuwaiti or Saudi oil fields or civilian centres in other Gulf states.
"There would be widespread damage to the environment of Iraq and possibly neighbouring countries. Oil wells would be fired, creating spills and toxic smoke. Troop movements and land mines will destroy the fragile desert economy," Reeve said.
Refugees escaping the conflict would die in large numbers and put a strain on neighbouring countries. Emergency relief is likely to cost billions, she added.
Iraqis are still suffering from the results of the 1990-1991 Gulf War and subsequent sanctions and their health has not returned to pre-war levels. Any new conflict would be more intense and destructive than the Gulf War and hit them extremely hard, according to the report.
Medact, the British affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War which won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize, estimates it will cost $200 billion in arms spending, occupation, relief and reconstruction.
That amount could easily pay for the health needs of the world's poorest people for about four years.
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