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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 December 2006, 09:53 GMT
AWB loses powers after Iraq probe
The inquiry spent 11 months investigating the scandal
Australia's wheat exporter AWB is to temporarily lose its monopoly over wheat exports, after a report into bribes paid to Iraq's former regime.

A judicial inquiry found AWB broke United Nations oil-for-food programme rules by paying Saddam Hussein $222m (112m) to secure contracts.

The government said AWB would lose its power to veto exports for six months.

Stripping AWB of its export control should help other Australian firms sell crops after this year's severe drought.

Largest supplier

Australia has suffered its worst drought in a century, harming its wheat production.

Removing AWB's powers to control exports could help firms that want to sell their wheat and mean the limited wheat produced has a market.

"We see this as resolving the differences that exist in relation to the current crop," said Prime Minister John Howard.

Laws will be hurried through Parliament to take away AWB's power to veto competitors from exporting wheat.

Australia's wheat regime, by having a single body that decides who can export, has been criticised for pushing up prices.

A rival to AWB has said it will seek to export 2 million tonnes of wheat, having previously been vetoed by AWB.

The Australian government had threatened to end AWB's monopoly entirely amid wider plans to reform the tarnished wheat sector, following the oil-for-food scandal.

The inquiry cleared the Australian government of involvement in bribes.

AWB had been the largest single supplier of humanitarian goods to Iraq under the UN programme, which ran from 1996 to 2003.

The wheat supply came within a UN programme aimed at allowing Iraq to use money from oil exports to purchase food and medicine, to counter suffering caused by international sanctions under Saddam Hussein's regime.

Government cleared in AWB inquiry
27 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
AWB kickbacks report handed in
24 Nov 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Australian firm 'bribed Saddam'
18 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
AWB chief quits over Iraq probe
09 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Howard breezes through bribes inquiry
14 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Iraq suspends dealings with AWB
13 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Q&A: Oil-for-food scandal
07 Sep 05 |  Middle East

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