Australia may buck US push for Iran sanctions

Australia, which supplies Iran with a large portion of its imported food, has told the United States it has reservations about the way the US is trying to free the hostages in Iran.

If a ban on food trade with Iran is requested. Australia may refuse.

The Pacific continent has gone along with other US requests for boycotting trade with Iran. But government officials says an embargo on food could damage Australia's reputation in the Mideast as a reliable trading partner -- beside producing an obvious immediate drop in trade.

Australian officials have charged the US is ignoring the wider strategic implications of the Iranian crisis. The US has "tunnel vision" on the hostage dilemma, they said. Australia is also concerned that American resort to military action beyond the aborted April 24 raid on Iran would place grave strain on the Western Alliance and further destabilize the Gulf region. The Soviet influence in Iran would probably become stronger and its shadow would be felt throughout the Mideast, they claim.

Australians feel the US should negotiate on demands that it hand over the Shah's overseas assets to Iran.

Australia and New Zealand provide as much as 30 percent of the food Iranians consume, but Australia provides the larger portion. It has already exported over $110 million US worth of food to Iran so far in this fiscal year.

Australia would agree a food boycott only if it seemed that was the only way to prevent the US from taking any further military action in Iran.

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