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Australian PM Denies Knowledge of Iraq Bribes

Australian Prime Minister John Howard is rejecting accusations that his government knew about large bribes allegedly paid by the country's monopoly wheat exporter to the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Howard 's denial came one day after evidence emerged of a cabled message sent to his office and several others warning of Iraq's efforts to obtain the bribes. An Australian diplomat in New York sent the message in 2001.

Mr. Howard Wednesday said the cable actually shows that wheat exporter A.W.B. assured the government it would not pay the kickbacks.

A government inquiry is investigating whether A.W.B. paid about $220 million to secure more than $2 billion in wheat contracts with Saddam Hussein's government.

A.W.B. says Iraq has decided not to do business with the company until it is cleared of the alleged corruption scandal.

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