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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Offers Wheat to Iraq as Aid

Russia is ready to supply food wheat to Iraq as humanitarian aid, Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

"Russia is ready to help Iraq if there is a humanitarian disaster, a shortage of food and famine," Gordeyev was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying. "Wheat is the most essential and necessary commodity for a country in need."

Gordeyev said Russia had supplied grain to Iraq under the UN oil-for-food program, which allowed the country to export crude oil and to buy basic necessities, but the program had been suspended last week.

The Russian Grain Union, the industry lobby body, said last month that Russia supplied Iraq with about half a million tons of wheat under the UN program. The figure could not be officially confirmed.

The government has bought nearly 2.5 million metric tons of wheat at intervention tenders aimed at propping up domestic prices.

It has said part of the stocks could be used for humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, Iraq's ambassador to Russia on Wednesday rejected donations of humanitarian aid even as Russia sent tents and food supplies for a possible Iraqi refugee influx to neighboring Iran.

"There is no emergency situation in Iraq. We are waging a holy war," Interfax quoted Iraqi Ambassador Abbas Khalaf as saying. "I am authorized to state that we will not receive any humanitarian aid. We have money and all the necessary reserves at our disposal."

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia had no plans to halt its relief efforts.

"We aren't playing any political games. We are taking part in helping civilians," Interfax quoted him as saying.

Russia is building a tent camp in Iran that can accommodate 5,000 refugees and is also sending food, water, medicine and electricity generators, Shoigu told Rossia television.

Some 94 metric tons of supplies have already been delivered, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Plans are also under way to send a mobile hospital, the ministry said.

Aid officials had expected at least 600,000 people to flee Iraq in the initial stages of the U.S.-led war, with about half going to Iran, though few refugees have fled Iraq so far.

 Russia could sell up to 1 million metric tons of wheat to Vietnam and also use its former Cold War ally as a hub to supply wheat to other Southeast Asian markets, authorities in Siberia said Wednesday.

Russia, which harvested a bumper grain crop of 86.6 million tons last year, has been seeking new buyers on the international market.

But this year the country expects to harvest a lower crop of 70 million to 75 million tons.

"Vietnam is prepared to buy up to 1 million tons of wheat and act as a transport base for wheat sales to the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia," the local government in the Siberian region of Altai said on its official web site, www.altairegion.ru.

It was not immediately clear how much the region would actually supply.

The announcement was made after talks between local suppliers and a visiting Vietnamese delegation.

(Reuters, AP)