Sanctions-hit Iraq will sign a deal "soon" to set up a free trade zone with Egypt as part of wider moves towards removing tariffs in the Arab world, Egyptian government newspapers said Saturday.
Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Ebeid, who was quoted making the announcement, gave no details on the bilateral deal, but Arab League sources said last week that Egypt, Iraq and Libya intended to set up a trilateral free trade zone.
The Arab world, which has plans to set up a region-wide free trade zone by 2007, has been warming to Iraq increasingly in recent months with moves to boost trade and resume flights despite a decade of United Nations sanctions.
Egypt, the top supplier of sanctions-hit Baghdad under the UN oil-for-food program, is expected to export $1.2 billion of goods to Iraq in 2000, up from $400 million in 1999, Egyptian ministers have said.
Iraq broke off relations with Egypt after Cairo joined the US-led force opposing Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, which brought on the sanctions. But Egypt has become one of Iraq's major economic partners since 1996, when the UN started letting Iraq sell limited amounts of oil for food, medicine and other necessities.
Cairo has regularly called for an end to the economic sanctions on Iraq. — (AFP, Cairo)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)