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"I went to Ur with a dedicated group of anti-sanctions campaigners from Sheffield. Failing to find the turn-off, we returned to an army checkpoint to ask the way. A Shi'a officer said he would show us the way. We drove through a decimated area, bombed in the Gulf War, and with chilling evidence of more recent bombings too. The campaigners had brought a beautifully thought-out mission statement, in Arabic, to give where appropriate. The officer read it with great care, then turned to us, a group of nine from countries who had wrought such havoc on his country. 'Here, in the south, it is incumbent on us to offer hospitality to visitors. My home is simple, but I have five chickens; you will eat well.' It was the eve of Ramadan, which traditionally ends in joyous feast. He was offering us that feast. It encapsulated the dignity, culture and generosity of this extraordinary people¿"I remember going to interview a woman who had lost both her husband and seven-year-old son. She had sold everything she owned to try to get medication for them and when they died she did not even have enough for the shroud cloth. I talked to her in the huge, empty living room and, as we talked, the room filled with children. For these incredibly hospitable, isolated people, a stranger is a rare treat. When I left, dusk was falling and as I got into the battered car the children surrounded it - about 50 of them - waving, laughing and blowing kisses. It was February 21, 1998, the darkest night, the night we were all certain the UK and US were going to bomb again. I went back to my hotel, lay on the bed and cried and cried."