Lebanon will sign a free trade agreement with Iraq in July, joining the ranks of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria, the chief of the Lebanese industrial association was quoted Wednesday, June 13, as saying.
Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri's Al-Mostaqbal newspaper quoted Jacques Sarraf as saying "the signing ... would have happened much sooner, but had been delayed for technical reasons."
He said the agreement was to have been signed at the Arab summit in Amman in late March, following the March 13 reopening of Iraq's embassy in Beirut after a seven-year closure. Hariri's office refused to comment, other than to say the signing was possible in July.
Sarraf, who said he learned of the plans from Hariri's inner circle, said the agreement would be signed in Beirut by Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and Lebanese government officials.
During parliamentary debates last month on Lebanon's 2001 budget, several MPs called for Lebanon to bolster its ties with Iraq. Former Prime Minister Omar Karame predicted that trade with Baghdad would bring Lebanon more than $1.5 billion in revenue within a year.
Before Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, 20 percent of the country's industrial products were exported to Iraq, Sarraf said. ― (AFP, Beirut)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)