AA 03 015
The Government has today decided to provide 100,000 tonnes of Australian wheat to Iraq in the form of humanitarian food assistance.
Iraq's food needs have been met since 1996 by the United Nations' Oil for Food program (OFF). This program was suspended as a result of the recent withdrawal of United Nations' staff from Iraq. The Government is working closely and actively with the United States and the United Kingdom to secure resumption of OFF as soon as possible. Australia has been the major supplier of wheat to Iraq under the OFF.
Today's decision reflects the Government's concern that the welfare of the Iraqi people be safeguarded as a consequence of military operations in Iraq. The wheat will support the efforts of other countries, including the United States, and international organisations to help prevent a humanitarian crisis in Iraq.
The wheat will be available to the people of Iraq at very short notice - as soon as conditions allow, the wheat can be delivered to Iraq. The wheat is already within three days steaming of Iraq.
For over fifty years Australian wheat growers have provided the Iraqi people with high quality wheat and on a timely basis. This reflects the strong preference of the Iraqi people for the prime white wheat for which Australia's wheat farmers are justly famous. The Government is very confident that this relationship will continue in the future, and the Government will take the necessary measures to protect this important relationship.
Chris Kenny (02) 6277 7500 or 0419 206
890 (Mr Downer)
Matthew Doman (02) 02 6277 7420 or 0418 273 475 (Mr Vaile)