Chalabi: No more Australian wheat

Nov. 12, 2005 at 5:39 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- The Iraqi government says it will buy no more Australian wheat until it is reimbursed for kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein under the oil-for-food program.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi told The Australian that the A.W.B., formerly the Australian Wheat Board, paid $290 million Australian (about $214 million U.S.) to the Jordanian trucking group Alia knowing the money would go to Saddam.

"The justifications they make are lame," Chalabi said. "The excuses they are making are lame."

A U.N. investigation of the oil-for-food program found that the A.W.B. was responsible for 14 percent of the kickbacks received by Saddam, the largest single amount. Officials say the board was unaware that Alia was a front for Saddam and thought the payments were legitimate transportation costs.

Australia is in the process of shipping a large wheat order to Iraq. An A.W.B. spokesman said the board has received no official notice from Iraq on future contracts.

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