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Swiss Firm Apologies For Gift Gaffe After Azeri Protest


By Conor Sweeney, Reuters
Swiss-based food company Nestlé has apologized to Azerbaijan after CDs it handed out free with packets of breakfast products angered the former Soviet state by accusing it of provoking war with Armenia.

Azerbaijan made an official protest after discs aimed at children across Russia stated it had provoked a war with Armenia over the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Nestlé has halted distribution of the CDs.

"It's a complete disaster as a statement, first it is incorrect, there are many views. It is also absolutely not the right place for it, it is a catastrophe," said Andrey Bader, Nestlé’s corporate affairs director for Russia.

Azerbaijan wrote to Nestlé’s headquarters in Switzerland to complain about the disc. "We have sent an official letter expressing discontent and Nestle offered apologies and withdrew all the CDs which had been distributed," said a spokesman for the Azeri Foreign Ministry.

"Every measure which was possible has been taken," he said, noting the CDs were not distributed in Azerbaijan itself.

The bonus computer disc was being distributed across Russia from April 10 to April 30 with two breakfast products -- Kosmostars and Nesquik -- and contained nuggets of data about different countries. "Now, regretfully, it has become pretty emotional in Azerbaijan," said Bader.

The content for the disc was prepared by an outside company and although the same details had been distributed since 1996, this was the first time it was noticed, said Bader. Nestle has now temporarily halted the promotion, but will resume it once revised discs are dispatched.

Bader said he did not know how many discs would have to be destroyed, but said it was a substantial campaign covering major cities across Russia, which has a population of 142 million. He could not estimate the cost to Nestlé, but said the decision to halt distribution was taken after consultation with its Swiss headquarters hours after the problem came to light. "Nestle took time to officially apologize with its consumers, with a recorded speech on Azeri TV, we brought this in a very loud way to consumers," he said.
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