Australia wants a third country's help to settle a row with Pakistan which refused to accept a $30-million shipment of wheat claiming that it is affected by a fungus not known to exist in this country.
Australian Federal Minister for Trade Mark Vaile on Tuesday held detailed discussion with Pakistani High Commissioner in Canberra Babar Malik and wrote to Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali suggesting an independent third party test the shipment immediately.
"We have suggested either the Americans or British testing laboratories. The Pakistani High Commissioner thought that was a good idea. He maintained that he has already suggested that to Islamabad. We have written to the Prime Minister and our Prime Minister (John Howard) may well write to President (Pervez) Musharraf.
"This is a fairly serious situation. The shipments were tested before they left Australia and over there. And neither of our tests have shown that the wheat has Karnal Bunt (fungus). Now we have a concern that may be the testing facility and capability of Pakistan is not quite up to the standard that is needed to be able to identify Karnal Bunt from other organisms," Vaile told reporters.
When told that some countries have suggested that they may stop importing Australian wheat if its contamination is proved correct, Vaile said "it is a very serious situation and I am sure that AWB (Australian Wheat Board) Limited are taking it very, very seriously, as is the government."