Monday, April 13, 2009
Iraqi PM welcomes Russian business
04–12–2009 – MOSCOW (AP) — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met Saturday with Russian business leaders to encourage them to take an active part in rebuilding Iraq's economy. He told the businessmen that his government would welcome their broader involvement in his country. "You will find all the necessary conditions for your work to help restore the Iraqi economy with the support of my government," al-Maliki said at a round table. On Friday, he met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Al-Maliki told Medvedev in the Kremlin that Iraq is interested in Russian investment, and Putin said at a joint news conference that talks focussed on oil and gas cooperation. Putin strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 when he was president, but Russia is now eager to ensure it is not shut out of development activity. In the past year, Iraq has given Russian oil companies, including Lukoil, state-owned Rosneft and Tatneft, the green light to bid against others worldwide for contracts to develop several promising fields. Russia would like Iraq to honor deals clinched during Saddam Hussein's rule, including Lukoil's 1997 contract to develop the large West Qurna-2 field. Lukoil chief Vagit Alekperov said Saturday his company was ready to bring that contract in line with the current Iraqi legislation. "Iraq now has all the necessary laws allowing to work in oil and gas sphere," he told Vesti 24 television. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov said Moscow and Baghdad had agreed to set up an intergovernmental panel to review the old contracts, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. "There is a political will to give a new start to our relations," it quoted Saltanov as saying. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Saturday that his country may also buy Russian weapons. Russia was a key weapons supplier to Iraq under Saddam. "Cooperation in the military area is possible in terms of holding training seminars and (purchases of) military equipment," Zebari said, according to the Interfax news agency. "Purchase of weapons is also possible. I believe military-technological cooperation with Russia has very good prospects." Putin also said Friday that the two countries are discussing the resumption of military-technical ties.