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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Australia rejects Iraqi threat on wheat
Australia has said it will not give in to Iraq's threat to halve imports of Australian wheat over Canberra's support for possible American military action to oust Saddam Hussein.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said if Iraq reduced the amount of Australian wheat it bought, it would end up paying more for poorer quality wheat from elsewhere.

Australia's Trade Minister, Mark Vaile, said clarification was being sought from Iraq on the issue.

The ministers' remarks followed a warning by Iraq that it was halving its wheat imports from Australia and considering cutting them altogether after Australia expressed support for possible US attacks on Baghdad.

Iraq is Australia's largest single wheat market and Australian farmers, who are already suffering from drought, say the move would hurt them further.

Iraq recently signed a contract for the purchase of a million tonnes of Australian wheat during the current six-month phase of the United Nations oil-for-food programme.

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