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Iraq to Buy Australian Wheat, Although Not From AWB, Vaile Says
Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Iraq will buy Australian wheat, although not from AWB Ltd., Australia's monopoly exporter that allegedly paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq to win sales, Trade Minister Mark Vaile said.

``Iraq is very keen to continue the relationship with Australia to continue to buy wheat,'' Vaile told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. after meeting Iraqi Trade Minister Ahmad Chalabi in Baghdad. ``That won't be from AWB while the Cole inquiry is going on.''

An Australian inquiry, headed by retired judge Terence Cole, is investigating claims made in a United Nations report by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker that AWB inflated wheat contracts and funneled $222 million back to Hussein through a Jordanian-based trucking company.

Melbourne-based AWB exports A$3.5 billion ($2.6 billion) of Australian wheat through a single desk. The company agreed Feb. 16 to let other Australian grain companies sell wheat to Iraq after Iraq said it would not buy wheat from AWB while it was under investigation.

Vaile said the deal with Iraq did not mark the end of Melbourne-based AWB's monopoly on Australian wheat exports. Government lawmakers have called for AWB's so-called single desk marketing arrangement to be abolished amid the inquiry.

``This is new ground we have to work through and we will need to have a look at what mechanism we will need to be deployed,'' Vaile said. ``The monopoly is not over, but we need to recognize the circumstances that exist in the short term with Iraq while the Cole inquiry is still under way.''

Prime Minister John Howard said the export arrangements would be worked out with other grain traders in coming weeks. The government will split the export license among rivals such as Cargill Australia Ltd. and Bunge Ltd.

Australia, the world's second-biggest wheat exporter, on Feb. 14 raised its estimate for the latest harvest by 3.7 percent to about 25 million metric tons. That's the second-largest on record.
MGR Archive 26.2.2006
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Russia Rapan $ 700
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