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This story doesn't come from an antiwar or anticapitalist site! tp://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=JSP3ZBJ0TNCFCCRBAELC FEY?type=reutersEdge&storyID=3863750 Thu November 20, 2003 01:24 PM ET By Sue Pleming WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prospective bidders are salivating over new Iraqi business worth up to $18.7 billion, from sellers of trucks and power generators to construction giants and oil refinery specialists. A sold-out Pentagon conference for contractors at an Arlington, Virginia, hotel on Wednesday had the heady feeling of a Gold Rush. More than 1,300 people from hundreds of U.S. and foreign companies stalked procurement officials in hallways and pitched their competence to work in Iraq. A follow-on conference is being held in London on Friday, targeting non-U.S. firms. "There is just so much money that we can tap into. It's just wonderful to have this opportunity," one prospective bidder gushed to the Defense Department's director of procurement, Deidre Lee. A new U.S. office established in Baghdad to supervise and oversee contracts has set an aggressive timetable, awarding up to $18.7 billion in 25 contracts over the next 10 weeks to rebuild Iraq. Some draft tenders could be released by Friday for work funded by money already appropriated from Congress. Official bidding will begin from Dec. 5, with contracts awarded by Feb. 3, 2004. The handling of the first batch of contracts for Iraq came under heavy criticism abroad and domestically, with charges of cronyism in some of the larger deals, which were awarded without competition even before the war began. Retired Rear Adm. David Nash, who is in charge of the new Program Management Office, has promised full and open competition this time. But many prospective bidders question how far the U.S. government is willing to go. "There are people here who can do great things, but will the government be prepared to take them on rather than the Halliburtons and Bechtels who they know from previous jobs?" asked one contractor. Halliburton, the oil services company once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, has the prime contract to rebuild Iraq's oil fields, while San Francisco-based Bechtel has the main infrastructure contract. New prime contracts are expected to be awarded only to companies from countries that helped in the war effort. That excludes firms from Germany, France and other nations that strongly opposed the U.S. occupation of Iraq. TOUTING CLIENTS Smaller companies hope to cash in on 2,000 projects soon to be announced that will cover a range of areas, from building police stations and prisons to providing furniture and trucks. Deal-makers, consultants and lawyers are having a field day knitting together partnerships, stomping the halls of the Defense Department and other government offices to tout their clients. "One of my clients is interested in any of the oil refinery deals coming up and I have another who is a specialist in ordinance demolition," said one consultant. Contractors complain of unanswered phone calls and e-mails and say it is difficult to break into a market that seems to favor tried and tested companies. "We are ready to take an order and despite many calls have not been able to get any meetings with the decision-makers. I'm here to try and find out who we can deal with," said Joe St. Pierre, a manager of a gas turbine company. Michael Mele, Iraq program manager for the Army Corps of Engineers, had advice for prospective bidders. While price and efficiency are important, he said, security is the key issue. Procurement staff are working massive overtime, canceling holidays to get the work done. "The strain on the government contracting community is a major concern of mine," said Mele. "We have never seen anything like this and won't again." Mark Parkinson Bodmin Cornwall _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk