A Saudi transport firm has signed a contract with Iraq for direct exports through a border crossing to the sanctions-hit state, the company said Saturday.
Khaled bin Ibrahim Al-Namlah, managing director of the Saudi Land Transport Co., told AFP the contract was signed with Iraq's General Land Transport Co. in the United Arab Emirates earlier this week.
The Arar border crossing will be used and the service launched in a month's time after agreements have been sealed with Saudi exporters, he said. He said his company would not handle Iraq-bound goods in transit.
A Saudi official said in November that the kingdom was awaiting a green light from the United Nations to reopen Arar to ease the entry of humanitarian goods to Iraq.
"The opening of the border crossing also needs the designation of a UN agent to oversee that the products in question fall under the oil-for-food program," said Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah Al-Zamel, head of a center for promoting Saudi exports.
Zamel put the figure of exports from Saudi private companies transited through Jordan under the program at "more than $400 million."
The program allows Baghdad, which has been under embargo since its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait that triggered the Gulf War, to export crude under strict UN control to buy food, medicine and other essential goods.
Iraq accuses Saudi Arabia and Kuwait of working with the United States and Britain to keep in place the sanctions regime.
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also draw fire from Baghdad for allowing US and British warplanes to fly from their bases to police the skies of southern Iraq, leading to frequent air raids.
The Arar crossing, shut since the Kuwait invasion, is opened once a year for Iraqi Muslims to travel to Mecca in western Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage, although Baghdad and Riyadh have not diplomatic ties since the 1991 Gulf War. — (AFP, Riyadh)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )