“Syria stops aid vessel unloading Iraq refugees’ rice” by Oweis

Syria stops aid vessel unloading Iraq refugees’ rice 11 Nov 2008, Reuters
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DAMASCUS, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Syria prevented a World Food Programme vessel carrying rice for Iraqi refugees from unloading at the country’s main port on Tuesday because, the government said, its cargo failed tests.

The order to stop the 8,000 tonne Bmc Genesis at Latakia comes at a time of heightened tension between Syria and Iraq in the wake of a U.S. raid on Syria from Iraqi territory that killed at least eight people.

Iraqi refugees — reliant on food aid distributed jointly by the WFP, a U.N. division, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — said they have stopped receiving rice, the main part of their rations.

Around 194,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria get food aid. A United Nations official in the Syrian capital confirmed that distribution of rice has stopped, but declined to say why. A Syrian official in Latakia said the decision to stop the vessel was purely technical.

“The percentage of cracked rice in the cargo was higher than allowable under Syrian standards. The ship was ordered not to unload,” he said.

Bmc Genesis, which flies the Indian flag, arrived at Latakia last week. WFP has paid around $11,000 a day in demurrage since.

Several thousand more tonnes of rice imported by WFP had been sitting at the docks but not allowed to leave the Mediterranean port. A second official said that this rice was “unfit for human consumption”. The WFP in Damascus declined to comment.


At a United Nations assistance centre in the poor suburb of Douma north of Damascus hundreds of Iraqi refugees gathered to receive their bi-monthly rations of 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of rice per refugee.

“This is a calamity. Winter is coming and for us Iraqis rice is the main stable,” Ahmad Amran said.

“They said problems with shipping were behind the cut and that we will be contacted once rice comes, but when?” a second refugee said.

One outside source said the WFP did not wish to publicise the row in the hope that it would be soon solved diplomatically with the Syrian government.

Syria has repeatedly asked Iraq to help care for the estimated one million Iraqi refugees it hosts.

Relations between the two countries have been strained by U.S. and Iraqi allegations that Syria was turning a blind eye to Islamist fighters infiltrating Iraq. The Oct. 26 raid by the United States on eastern Syria raised the stakes.

The attack killed a top smuggler of foreign fighters to al Qaeda in Iraq, a U.S. official said.

The Damascus government said the raid killed eight Syrian civilians and responded by shutting down an American school and a cultural centre in Damascus. An Iraqi official said Baghdad did not accept “this kind of aggression”.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari starts a visit to Syria later on Tuesday aimed at stabilising ties.

Iraqi foreign minister in Syria for talks, International Herald Tribune
Iraq’s foreign minister is visiting Syria for the first time since a cross-border U.S. raid on a Syrian village last month.Minister Hoshyar Zebari will discuss a U.S.-Iraqi security pact that would see U.S. troops in Iraq for three more years. Syria has been critical of the draft deal.

Syria says eight civilians were killed in the Oct. 26 raid by helicopter-borne U.S. troops who crossed into Syria from Iraq. American officials say the raid targeted a top al-Qaida figure.

Zebari arrived in the Syrian capital Tuesday and will meet with President Bashar Assad Wednesday.


He’s expected to try to ease Syria’s concerns over the proposed Iraqi-U.S. security pact.

Comments (11)

Brad said:

“Syria stops aid vessel unloading Iraq refugees’ rice”
Typical diversionary tactic from the real issues of terrorism and nuclear armament facing a rogue regime.

November 11th, 2008, 5:59 pm


AIG said:

There is no need to jump in. Sometimes patience is a virtue. Just wait enough and someone here will explain to us why this is another smart move by Bashar or why this is the US fault because it created the Iraqi refugee problem.

What not one Syrian will suggest is sending Imad Moustapha a letter asking to clarify the action and whether it can be reversed. No, they prefer trying to solve the problems that involve Israel and not those that are related to Syria. The reason for that is very simple. It is not that they do not care. I sincerely believe they do. The problem is that they are cowards and are afraid of the Syrian regime.

November 11th, 2008, 6:38 pm


Brad said:

Thanks AIG for the very insightful advise. I never though of it that way to be honest. But then why should you blame me? I don’t possess the great ‘genius’ so characteristic of all the regime mouthpieces here and elsewhere. Cheers

November 11th, 2008, 6:57 pm


Saghir said:


Speaking for myself, I actually think that you are a genius. Please be your self and don’t heed AGI’S advice to be patient. I actually love your one liners that sum up complicated geopolitics in simple sound bites that the mouthpieces among us can understand and comprehend.

November 11th, 2008, 7:13 pm


Alex said:


Please try to relax.

This is not a demonstration or rally where you continuously shout slogans against terror-supporting dictatorships. This is a forum for dialog where all are welcome as long as they understand and respect the rules and regulation.


I thought we will not use the “they are cowards” words again?


November 11th, 2008, 7:33 pm


jad said:

“The problem is that they are cowards and are afraid of the Syrian regime.”
AIG, your problem is that you are a war criminal, raciest, mouthful of hatred and nothing but a refugee who happened to have someone like the genius, english perfect, close minded Brad giving you money and weapons to create your israeli ghetto on Palestinian and Syrian lands and you are treating them the same way you’ve been treated in Germany.

Dear Alex, this open license of meaningless, raciest and going nowhere hatred messages by AIG and others should be controlled, it’s becoming an endless soap-opera.

November 11th, 2008, 7:41 pm


Saghir said:

I don’t think that AIG and BRAD-the-genius should stop. Thanks to them, we get to learn about good versus evil and rogue versus civilized. I, for one, truly enjoy and value their presence here.

November 11th, 2008, 7:46 pm


sam said:

Does the Iraqi govt. give Syria any money for helping it’s refugee citizens? With all the billions in surplus, you would think they would try to bring their middle class back into Iraq.

November 11th, 2008, 7:50 pm


sam said:

terror-supporting dictatorships. I’m sure you mean resistence-supporting leaders.

November 11th, 2008, 7:58 pm


Shai said:


I concur with your comment about Brad/AIG, but with one addition. That their “civilized” representation not be taken to be exclusive on behalf of Israelis and/or their American GWOT-supporters. I hear that there are other Israelis as well… 🙂 (less genius ones).

November 11th, 2008, 8:00 pm


Friend in America said:

Using refugees as pawns in a dispute with a neighboring country will not gain the respect of the world in the mid east or elsewhere.

The only positive aspect of this incident is to remind all of us the refugee situation in Syria needs serious consideration. There are refugees who can be encouraged to return, others that will not return because of their past and present participation in the terrorist activities and will chose to stay in Syria, and refugees that would go back to Iraq but presently are afraid because of the terrorism and potential Shia retribution.
Most of these refugees are lower level members of Sadam’s government or in other ways supporters of Sadam, and their families (these are the people the Damascus government is using as pawns – the government does not use as pawns the Sadam supporters who have enough money to live outside the camps in comfortable apartments and homes – only the poor refugees).
I anticipate the present Iraqi government will be cautious about any proposal for wholesale required resettlement (at present voluntary repatriation is as easy as purchasing a bus ticket). If this assessment is correct, the Iraqi government will be slow in jumping to their aid.

November 11th, 2008, 9:50 pm


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