Oman's commerce and industry minister flew into Baghdad on Monday, June 4, for the first visit to Iraq by a member of the sultanate's government since the 1991 Gulf War.
Maqbool Bin Ali Bin Sultan, who arrived on an Oman Air plane, was greeted at the airport by his Iraqi counterpart Mohammad Mehdi Saleh. Both officials told reporters they would work to boost cooperation between the two Arab states.
The Omani minister is to hold talks on expanding trade and joint investments, and a joint committee will meet for the first time since 1989 during his four-day visit.
Oman and Iraq are also "endeavoring to sign a memorandum of understanding to set up a free trade zone," according to the Oman Observer newspaper.
The sultanate in 2000 exported an estimated $20 million worth of goods to Iraq under the UN "oil-for-food" program, which allows Baghdad to export crude to finance imports of essential goods.
Iraq has been under sanctions since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait that triggered the Gulf War.
Just hours before Sultan's arrival, Iraq halted UN-supervised oil exports in a row with the Security Council over a system of "smart" sanctions proposed by Britain and the United States.
Oman, the only Gulf Arab monarchy to have maintained good ties with Iraq even during the 1990-1991 crisis, and which has kept an embassy in Baghdad, held a trade fair in the Iraqi capital in May 2000. Muscat has repeatedly called for a lifting of the UN embargo.
During a visit to Iraq in March, the head of Oman's chamber of commerce and industry, Mohammad bin Nasser Sharifi, announced plans to open an Omani trade office in Baghdad. ― (AFP, Baghdad)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)