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Thursday, July 8, 1999 Published at 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK

World: Middle East

Iraq expels UN man for 'locust sabotage'

Iraq says the locusts were intended to destroy the country's crops

A United Nations mine-removal expert has left Iraq for Jordan after being accused by the Iraqis of hiding locust eggs to destroy the country's harvest.

The foreign ministry said local people had seen the official, Ian Broughton from New Zealand, burying boxes of locust eggs in the ground in the Khanaqin region, 180km north-east of Baghdad.

It said that "an act of sabotage" had been committed.

The alleged incident was said to have occured in April. Mr Broughton was given 72 hours to leave the country.

He had been in Iraq for two years, supervising demining in the northern region of Sulaymaniyah.

UN denial

[ image: Checking out: Ian Broughton leaves his hotel and heads for Jordan]
Checking out: Ian Broughton leaves his hotel and heads for Jordan
The UN's Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad, Hans von Sponeck, denied that Mr Broughton was involved in the alleged incident, and said he wasn't even in the area at the time.

But Iraq's Culture and Information Minister Humam Abdel-Khaliq, who is at present the acting foreign minister, said that the government was demanding the UN cut its ties to the British company which employs Mr Broughton.

The government has repeatedly expressed its unease with the clearing of mines in the Kurdish autonomous zone of northern Iraq.

The UN demining project has a budget of $20m a year. It is funded by the oil-for-food programme under which Iraq is allowed to sell limited amounts of oil on condition that the revenue is spent on food and humanitarian services.

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