Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Ministry says food donation to Iraq was sold as fodder

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Jordanian charity failed to deliver Taiwan's donation of 4,000 tonnes of quality rice to Iraqi refugees and sold the food after it was no longer good for human consumption, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed yesterday.

The ministry, in a bid to help the Iraqi people suffering from war, worked with the Hashemite Jordan Charity Organization (HAJCO) to transport 5,000 tonnes of rice to Iraq in 2003. While 1,000 tonnes of the food aid were sent to Iraq, 4,000 tonnes of the consignment were stored at Jordan's Aqaba Port for more than a year.

Stale

"The 4,000 tonnes of rice, which is worth US$4 million, turned stale after being stored at the port for more than a year. HAJCO, without informing the MOFA, sold the rice as fodder for US$600,000 on auction," ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said yesterday.

The ministry has expressed its discontent with the Jordanian government and HAJCO over the charity's "improper act" of selling Taiwan's food donation, Lu said.

"We regret that the rice did not reach those we wanted to help. The ministry will seriously consider whether to continue cooperation with the charity," he said.

The charity has suggested to Taiwan that the US$600,000 obtained after auctioning the rice be used to purchase medical supplies for the Jordanian and Iraqi people.

Security Concerns

"Although we are very unhappy about the charity's behavior, we understand the delivery of the rice to Iraq was delayed due to security concerns. We reported the charity's suggestion to the Cabinet, which agreed to use the money in the way the charity recommended," Lu said.

The charity's plan to transport the rice to Iraq was disrupted because of the frequent terrorist attacks and abductions in that country.

The high transportation fees also increased the charity's difficulties in delivering the food aid, Lu said.

No Relations

The ministry could not send the food aid through official channels because Taiwan and Iraq do not maintain diplomatic relations. Taiwan sought assistance from the charity organization rather than the Jordanian government to transport the rice because the nation does not have official relations with Jordan, either.

Francis Chang (張添能), the country's representative to Jordan, said very few drivers were willing to travel to Iraq because of dangers involved in making the journey.

"Delivering food aid was not an easy thing. People should not be too critical over the matter," he said.

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