September 22, 2003



No Free Australian Sheep For Pakistan


Pakistan's farm minister said on Monday the government had turned down an offer for 50,000 free Australian sheep, which have been stranded at sea for weeks.


"We have communicated the decision to the Australian government today...we have politely refused their offer," Pakistani farm minister Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind told Reuters.


"We are grateful that they considered giving as a gift that huge quantity to Pakistan, but we can not accept unhealthy sheep," he said by telephone from Islamabad.


Saudi Arabia rejected the sheep on August 28 on the grounds that six percent of them had scabby mouth disease, more than an agreed five percent maximum. The Australian government said only 0.35 percent were infected with the low grade disease.


Animal rights groups have lashed out at the poor conditions endure by the sheep aboard the Cormo Express, and have demanded their immediate slaughter.


A senior official of Pakistan's farm ministry said that Pakistan would not be holding further talks on the issue, and that the decision to reject the offer had been communicated to Australia's acting High Commissioner to Pakistan.