Russia Denies Grain Sales to Iraq
Jan. 21, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia denied reports Thursday that it was trying to export grain to Iraq under a humanitarian relief program, while Russia itself is receiving massive grain aid from the United States and the European Union.
``Russia's Food and Agriculture Ministry would be notified if such talks (on grain for Iraq) were being held,'' Food and Agriculture Minister Viktor Semyonov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Reports surfaced in grain markets in both the United States and European Union on Tuesday that Russia was negotiating a sale of 100,000 tons of wheat to Iraq under the United Nations food-for-oil program _ an exception to U.N.-mandated sanctions that allows Iraq to sell oil to raise funds to buy food and medicine.
Russia's disastrous 1998 grain harvest _ its worst in 40 years _ and the country's economic crisis have led to worries that the country's poor may go hungry this winter.
Last month, the United States agreed to give Russia 1.5 million tons of grain and a loan to purchase 1.5 million tons of other agricultural commodities.
The EU finalized its food aid agreement with Russia this week.
Both deals were signed after assurances from the Russians that no donated food would be re-exported.
U.S. officials have also warned that the aid would be scrapped if Russia exports large amounts of Russian-grown grain.