Lebanon, Iraq to sign free trade agreement soon
Lebanon will sign a free trade agreement with Iraq in the "near future, Economy Minister Bassel Fleihan said Tuesday, July 17. "We will witness the signing of the deal between Lebanon and Iraq for a free trade zone in the near future," Fleihan said at the opening of the second annual exhibition of Iraqi products held at the Beirut Hall.
"We are ready to pursue the issue of the free trade zone. The Lebanese government has taken the decision and is ready for that and we have agreed on all the clauses," he said. Last month, the chief of the Lebanese industrial association, Jacques Sarraf, said the deal was expected to be signed in July.
Earlier this month, the head of the Beirut chamber of commerce, Adnan Kassar, said Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri had "assured us that Lebanon is ready to sign a free trade deal with Iraq, similar to agreements signed with Syria and Egypt."
A number of leading businessmen and politicians are urging the Hariri government to speed up the process of normalization between Lebanon and Iraq, to develop economic and trade exchanges and to import Iraqi crude oil that Baghdad is offering at half price, as is the case for Syria, Jordan and Turkey.
Lebanon, which broke off diplomatic relations with Iraq in 1994 after the assassination in Beirut of an Iraqi opposition leader, resumed them in March but only at the level of charge d'affaires.
Relations earlier picked up in 1997 when Syria, which wields great influence over Lebanon, improved its ties with Iraq. Before the 1990 international sanctions on Iraq, Baghdad was the main buyer of Lebanese products and Lebanon was the prime destination of Iraqi tourists and businessmen. ― (AFP, Beirut)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)