An impending $40 billion economic deal with Iraq is threatening to sour Russia’s relations with the United States as President George W. Bush seeks to rally international support for a possible military strike against Baghdad.
Initiated over a year ago, the Russian-Iraqi cooperation pact will be signed next month, Iraq's ambassador to Moscow Abbas Khalaf told the Washington Post, noting the deal would abide by UN resolutions.
The five-year pact pertains to cooperation in the fields of oil, irrigation, chemicals, railroads and electrical energy. It includes 67 separate contracts—some launching new projects and some providing for the overhaul of aging infrastructure. Under the terms of the deal, Iraq would also give Russian firms priority in oil-marketing deals.
Drawing closer to the West in recent years, Russia has so far lent significant support to the American anti-terror campaign, declared in the aftermath of September 11. At the same time, the Kremlin is pursuing relations with Iran, Iraq and North Korea, all three branded terrorist harboring states under President Bush’s "axis of evil" doctrine.
Earlier in August, the Russian government approved a 10-year deal to build six nuclear reactors in Iran, raising concern in Washington that such collaboration would aid the Islamic republic’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Russia’s ties with the North Korea would receive a boost later this summer, with a recently scheduled visit by Asian leader Kim Jong Il to Moscow.
A longstanding ally of Iraq and a strategic trading partner, Russia has forcedly proclaimed its opposition to a military campaign against Iraq and its support for lifting the UN sanctions, imposed by the Security Council after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
Of the five billion dollar contracts frozen by the UN sanctions’ committee in 1990, 1.7 billion were Russian. In addition, Iraq owes eight billion dollar in debts to Russia, dating back to the Soviet-era. Russia’s mounting pressures on both the UN Security Council and the US as well as its latest moves to come closer to Iraq could therefore be best understood in light of its pursuit of a payback in the form of lucrative new oil and infrastructure contracts. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )