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Tests ease tension on Iraq wheat
IRAQ has been caught out over claims it would withhold a $350 million payment because of a dispute over allegedly contaminated cargoes of Australian wheat. Iraqi Grains Board chief Khalil Assi said payment for the three shiploads would be blocked because tests on the wheat found traces of iron dust.

But AWB sources said at the weekend the company had been paid for the delivery and the money was in the bank.

The row with Iraq comes as Iraq finds itself under pressure from US exporters to buy their taxpayer-subsidised grain.

Mr Assi said Iraq would increase wheat purchases from the US and give preferred market status to US farmers. He said the Iraqi Grain Board would import about 3-4 million tonnes, about half the wheat Iraq consumes annually, from the US.

Australian farmers, who have enjoyed a 50-year wheat partnership with Iraq, sell about 1.5 million tonnes a year to Iraq.

Mr Assi said purchases of wheat from the US would depend on price. He also said three cargoes of Australian wheat were being inspected in Iraq for possible iron dust contamination.

"We will not make payment until after the inspection and everything is fine," he said.

Although the AWB said recent tests found the shipments free of contaminants, it was learned late on Friday that it had ordered further testing. Iraq has previously complained that Australian wheat was overpriced.

AWB chief executive Andrew Lindberg said last week that similar issues had confronted wheat officials in both countries but had been resolved.

"As far as we are concerned there is no quarrel on the issue," he said.

But he conceded there was misunderstanding about some issues.

"I think we are well placed to enjoy further significant business in that country into the future," he said.
MGR Archive 1.5.2005
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Russia Rapan $ 700
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