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Iraq makes a joke out of food rations

BAGHDAD, April 1 (AFP) - The Iraqi government played a cruel hoax on its people for April Fools' Day on Thursday when an official newspaper pledged they would get bananas, chocolate and soft drinks in their rations.

"Good news: from today bananas, Pepsi and chocolate to be included in rations," the official Ath-Thawra weekly proclaimed on its front page.

Iraqis would now receive one kilo (2.2 pounds) of bananas, 24 cans of Pepsi and 50 pieces of chocolate with their monthly food ration, the paper said, only to reveal on inside pages that it was all a joke.

Every month the government distributes a food ration to all 22 million Iraqis at the symbolic price of 150 dinars (10 cents) a month to help counteract the effect of the crippling UN sanctions in force since 1990.

It includes modest amounts of tinned cheese, flour, rice, sugar, tea, cooking oil, powdered milk, starch and salt.

But to believe the Babel daily's own stab at an April fools' joke, rationing will soon be irrelevant since Russian President Boris Yeltsin is so determined to obtain a lifting of the embargo that he is planning a nuclear war to achieve it.


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