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IRAQ: Australian Wheat Mission About Repairing Relations

Trade Minister Mark Vaile will lead the trip with AWB boss Brendan Stewart, despite news overnight that the Iraqi Grains Board will stick to its decision to suspend trade with AWB.

ABC Rural
February 17th, 2006

Australia's peak grain grower group says it does not expect a high level government delegation to win back valuable wheat contracts in Iraq.

Trade Minister Mark Vaile will lead the trip with AWB boss Brendan Stewart, despite news overnight that the Iraqi Grains Board will stick to its decision to suspend trade with AWB.

The Grains Council wants AWB International's new chairman, Ian Donges, to be part of the trip.

But spokesman David Ginns has warned growers not to expect too much from the delegation.

"No we certainly don't have any expectations out of the delegation that they would come back with a signed contract in any shape or form," he said.

"It really is about trying to repair the damage that's been done to the relationship between Iraq and Australia by the revelations from the Cole commission."

Federal Labor leader Kim Beazley says taking AWB officials, including Mr Stewart, to Iraq will make it much harder to win wheat sales.

"All that you needed from Stewart was to sit down with him and say 'you fellas have disgraced us, admittedly we're in it with you, we're in it with you, you've disgraced us, you're out of this, you sign one letter saying that as far as you're concerned you've waved your rights over this particular trade to Iraq at this particular point in time', full stop!" he said.

But Prime Minister John Howard has defended the decision, saying the Government had no choice but to take AWB, because it owns the grain in the export wheat pool.

"I would have thought that it was obvious why he ought to accompany us Mr Speaker, because AWB Limited holds the pool, Mr Speaker," he said.

"And the advice I currently have is that if you are to sell wheat into Iraq, you are to participate in the latest tender, the only wheat that's available is the wheat legally controlled by AWB Limited, Mr Speaker."





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