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Australia, US must assume responsibility for Iraqi food aid.

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Senator John Cherry Senator Aden Ridgeway

Agriculture spokesperson Overseas Development spokesperson Australian Democrats

March 20, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/158

Australia, US must assume responsibility for Iraqi food aid The Australian, American and British Governments must immediately assume responsibility for food aid into Iraq following the suspension of the UN Oil for Food program, according to the Australian Democrats.

Under international humanitarian law, it is up to invading nations to feed the local population during and immediately after a war.

Democrats Overseas Development spokesperson Senator Aden Ridgeway said Australia needs to live up to its international obligations and do whatever it can to avoid starvation in Iraq.

“Our Government has chosen to be part of an invasion army into Iraq and we have to accept that the responsibilities that go with that, include feeding the Iraqi population,” Senator Ridgeway said.

“The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan told the Security Council yesterday that so far the UN had received only $34 million of the $123 million it requested in February from member states to prepare for the influx of refugees.

“If, as our Government says, it is joining this invasion because of its concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people, it will do everything it can to match its military expenditure with humanitarian assistance.

“The $10 million of assistance announced so far by the Australian Government is clearly inadequate given we are one of only three nations joining the invasion military force.

“Australia must live up to its obligations under international humanitarian law,” Senator Ridgeway said.

Democrats Agriculture spokesperson Senator John Cherry said Australia, as a major wheat exporter to Iraq, had been a major beneficiary of the $27 billion Oil for Food program and had a clear responsibility to ensure that food got to those who need it.

“A British Parliamentary Committee warned last week that up to 10 million Iraqis could face starvation within weeks of war, and that insufficient emphasis had been placed on the humanitarian implications of military action,” Senator Cherry said.

“With Australian shipments of wheat stranded in the Persian Gulf due to the cancellation of the Oil for Food program, the Australian Government should step in to ensure that emergency food supplies continue getting into Iraq from Australia even though war has been declared.

“The delivery of food into Iraq is now our responsibility as an invading nation and as a major food producer. We must ensure that we do not let down the millions of Iraqis whose very lives will depend on our humanitarian efforts being up to the task,” Senator Cherry concluded.

Media contact : Senator Cherry: 0408 752 750

Senator Ridgeway: 0417 410 506