The United Nations is predicting that there will be as many as half a million Iraqi casualties in the early stages of a war on Iraq.
The total includes some 100,000 expected to be injured as a direct result of combat and a further 400,000 wounded as an indirect result of the devastation.
The confidential U.N. assessment was drafted a month ago. The U.N. staff has been quietly planning for months how to cope with the humanitarian fallout from a conflict in Iraq.
In addition, the UN predicts U.S. war against Iraq would cause 2 million Iraqis to become refugees and a total of 10 million would be put at risk of hunger and disease. And as many as 500,000 Iraqis could be seriously injured in the early stages of an invasion.
The impact of a U.S. invasion in Iraq would likely be far worse than the humanitarian crisis caused by the Gulf War in 1991. A decade of U.N. sanctions has made the Iraqi population almost totally dependent on government handouts for survival.
- Denis Halliday, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq and former Assistant Secretary-General. He is speaking to us from Baghdad.