Iraq will give priority to Russia and Syria in import contracts under the UN oil-for-food program rather than France which has won the lion's share of deals since 1996, an Iraqi official said Sunday, July 15.
"Iraq will intensify (commercial) ties with friendly countries, notably Russia and Syria, for having supported Iraq" in opposing US and British proposals to impose "smart" sanctions on Baghdad, the official told AFP.
The official, asking not to be named, said priority would in future also go to Jordan, Egypt and Malaysia. On July 4, the UN Security Council extended the oil-for-food deal for five months after shelving plans to impose the revised sanctions proposed by Washington and London due to Russian opposition.
Iraq has been under embargo since it invaded Kuwait in 1990 but has been authorized since December 1996 to export oil under UN supervision to finance imports of essential goods for its 22-million population.
Before a vote on smart sanctions was postponed, Iraq warned France it would pay a heavy price for backing the proposals.
France won a total of $3.5 billion worth of contracts with Iraq in the first eight phases of the UN humanitarian program, which normally runs in six-monthly terms, according to official figures. It lost first place to Egypt in the last phase.
French companies, along with firms from Russia and China, have also been negotiating oil development projects in Iraq, which has the world's second largest reserves after Saudi Arabia.
Russia is now expected to win contracts to supply Iraq with oil maintenance equipment, said an Arab diplomat posted in Baghdad, which is authorized to import $600 million of oil spare parts every six months. — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse
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