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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Pakistan rejects Australian sheep
Sheep
Not ship-shape: Saudis say too many of the sheep are diseased
Pakistan has refused Australia's offer of 50,000 free sheep, currently stranded in a ship in the Persian Gulf.

The sheep were initially destined for Saudi Arabia, which turned them away, claiming they were unhealthy.

They have since been marooned aboard the ship in baking heat, as animal rights activists attacked the Australian government for their plight.

Pakistan said it could not accept the animals because it lacked adequate quarantine and medical facilities.

"We have politely refused their offer," the Pakistani farm minister, Sardar Yar Mohammed Yind, told Reuters on Monday.

Pakistani officials had earlier said they would consult Saudi Arabia before accepting the Australian offer of free sheep.

Saudi authorities had rejected the shipment of sheep saying there was too high a level of "scabby mouth" disease amongst the animals.

The Australians disputed this, saying the incidence of the disease aboard the ship was well within the agreed limit.

The ship full of sheep was offered to the United Arab Emirates, which also turned it down.

Animal rights defenders have called on the Australian authorities to put the sheep out of their misery with a swift slaughter - instead of keeping the animals alive in the hope of finding a market for them.

Australia is the world's largest exporter of livestock, shipping six million sheep to markets in Asia and the Middle East every year.




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The BBC's Phil Mercer
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