Several countries, including western states, are sending diplomats back to Baghdad, as sanctions-hit Iraq breaks out of its decade-old economic and political isolation.
Japan was the latest country to reopen its Baghdad embassy last week, now being run by diplomats shuttling in and out from its Amman embassy.
"The aim of this presence is to look after the interests of Japanese who visit Iraq in search of contracts under the oil-for-food program," a diplomat at the embassy told AFP.
The UN program, which is currently flush with funds due to high world oil prices, authorizes Iraq to export crude in return for imports of essential goods.
Switzerland and Austria are also preparing to reopen embassies, "underlining the current political and economic détente in Iraq despite the embargo" which has been in force since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, a western diplomat said.
The Swiss foreign ministry decided last week to reopen its embassy which was closed on the eve of the 1991 Gulf War that evicted Iraqi troops from Kuwait, but like Japan it will not yet appoint an ambassador.
Two diplomats will soon be dispatched to the embassy to oversee humanitarian aid, provide for Swiss economic interests in Iraq and issue visas, said the foreign ministry in Bern.
Switzerland never severed diplomatic relations with Baghdad.
"Austria is also making contacts with a view to reopening its embassy in Baghdad, which could take place at the start of 2001," the western diplomat said, asking not to be named.
He said that Belgium plans to send a delegation at the start of next year with the same aim.
A Belgian trade office is also to be opened shortly in Baghdad, the economy minister for Belgium's French-speaking Wallonia region, Serge Kubla, said during a visit at the end of October.
Several other European countries, such as France, Italy and Spain, have already reactivated diplomatic missions in Iraq -- BAGHDAD (AFP)
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