Iraqi, Egypt wrap up FTZ deal
Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan held talks in Cairo Wednesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a presidential source said before the two sides were to sign a deal for a free trade zone.
The meeting came as ties between Egypt and Iraq continued to warm on the 10th anniversary of the 1991 Gulf war, an event in which Egypt joined the US-led international coalition to evict Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
A source at the presidential palace said Mubarak and Ramadan were joined by Prime Minister Atef Ebeid of Egypt and Trade Minister Mohamed Mehdi Saleh and Transportation Minister Ahmed Mortada of Iraq. There were no immediate details on the substance of the talks.
The Egyptian government newspaper Al-Ahram reported that Ramadan and Ebeid were to sign the agreement to set up a free trade zone here Thursday. Under the terms of the deal, Iraq "will abolish all customs barriers" blocking Egyptian exports and the two countries will form "a single market," according to Saleh.
The two sides began negotiations on the last details of the accord in the presence of the Iraqi ministers as well as the Egyptian ministers of economy, agriculture, information, industry, planning and international cooperation.
Information Minister Safwat Al-Sherif said Egyptian-Iraqi economic cooperation was part of efforts to establish an Arab common market in the next few years, Al-Ahram said.
Sherif added that improved economic ties would not undermine Egypt's relations with the Arab Gulf states, which provide considerable financial assistance to Egypt. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait still have no diplomatic relations with Iraq, which were broken in 1991.
Ramadan is the highest-ranking Iraqi to make an official visit to Egypt since the Gulf war. On November 7, the two countries effectively resumed diplomatic relations at the level of charge d'affaires having the rank of ambassador. — (AFP, Cairo)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)