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[casi] FW: Iraq security deters western firms

Iraq security deters western firms

October 14, 2003 - 12:07PM

Western firms are reluctant to play a role in the reconstruction of Iraq
because of security concerns and a lack of clarity about the contracts
on offer, a conference in London has heard.

Acknowledging disquiet among companies over the way sub-contracting work
has been handed out by the US companies leading the work to rebuild
Iraq, the United States is creating a new agency, under the aegis of the
Pentagon, a US defence official told delegates.

The new agency, as yet unnamed, will be introduced at the beginning of
November under the direction of retired admiral David Nash, said the
Deputy Under Secretary of Defence for International Technology Security,
John Shaw.

It will be charged with coordinating the distribution of sub-contracting
work in Iraq, notably by US groups Bechtel and Halliburton, the main
contractors in Iraq's reconstruction.

Shaw admitted there were "divergences" over the process between the US
Agency for International Development (USAID) - which awarded the main
contracts under the supervision of the State Department - and the

An Iraqi businessman at the conference, called "Doing Business in Iraq",
lamented that the process of awarding sub-contracts in Iraq was "so
slow, bureaucratic, and not very fair".

To win a contract "you have to be there," Mustafa Al-Hijaj, head of
development at the Iraqi company Al-Hameediyaih Co Ltd, which has
managed to secure work from Bechtel to help to repair Iraq's water
treatment systems.

The most important thing to do was to form an alliance with local
people, he told AFP.

The US administration was represented by several officials at the
conference, which also heard calls for Western firms to set aside their
fears about the rising violence in Iraq and to help to rebuild the
war-torn country.

"If you don't participate in reconstruction now, it will affect your
position" in the future, said Rubar Sandi, a Kurdish-American who is
advising the interim Iraqi authorities.

"Whether you are pro-war or against war is irrelevant now. We have a
country to rebuild," said Sandi, the owner of the Baghdad Hotel, the
target of a car bomb on Sunday that killed eight people.

Sandi, chief executive of the US investment bank CorporateBank Business,
confided that his brother had been seriously hurt in the attack, but he
argued that to not invest in Iraq would only reward the terrorists.

Mustafa Al-Bunnia, vice president of the Iraqi company Al-Bounnia, the
country's biggest conglomerate, flew over from Baghdad to attend the

"Iraqis are hungry to prove themselves," he told delegates.

But he warned: "Don't expect when you arrive in Baghdad to find the
right person right away".

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