Iraqi sweet pickles spark anthrax scare in Malaysia

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 22 (Reuters) A Malaysian diplomat has apologised to the Iraqi government after he mistook a box of sweet pickles sent to him as Ramjan gift for anthrax powder, a newspaper said today.

The incident has sparked a protest from Baghdad, with its envoy to Malaysia expressing displeasure over the diplomat's ''panic-stricken behaviour''.

''It is such a special sweet, and this year I wanted to show my appreciation to the Malaysian government, the ministry and my friends,'' the New Straits Times quoted Iraq's charge d'affaires, Hoshiar Dazayi, as saying.

He said the diplomat's apology still fell short of an official apology from the Malaysian government.

The Malaysian diplomat had faxed a letter offering his ''sincere and deepest apologies'' to the Iraqi government, adding that it was ''purely a misunderstanding'' on his part.

He had received the gift sent to his office on September 13. When he opened the box at his house later that day he only saw white powder. Fearing it might be anthrax powder, he placed the parcel outside his house and called the police.

When police examined the parcel the next day, they found it contained only sweet pickles. The powder was sugar sprinkled on top to preserve them, the newspaper said.

The Iraqi diplomat said similar gifts were also sent to Malaysia's foreign minister and several other senior diplomats.

REUTERS SKB RAI0943

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