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Australia's Howard to Testify on Iraq Wheat Scandal Thursday


Australian Prime Minister John Howard says he will testify Thursday at an inquiry into allegations that Australia's main wheat exporter paid bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

Mr. Howard said in statement Wednesday he had received a request to appear at the hearings, and is happy to do so.

He will be the first Australian prime minister to testify before a commission of inquiry since Bob Hawke in 1983.

The commission is expected to ask Mr. Howard if he received any warnings that the Australian Wheat Board (now called AWB) was making illegal payments to Iraq under the U.N.'s oil-for-food program.

Earlier this week, the commission questioned two other ministers in Mr. Howard's government - Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile.

They told the inquiry they did not recall seeing any letters sent to the government by diplomats warning of wrongdoing by AWB.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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