BAGHDAD (AFP) – Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told visiting US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Saturday that Baghdad wants American companies to work on reconstruction projects in Iraq, the premier’s office said.
“Iraq is planning to improve roads, seaports and airports, and make use of the experience by American companies in these fields,” his office said in a statement.
LaHood arrived in Baghdad earlier the same day for talks including plans to rehabilitate Iraqi ports and boost maritime trade, an embassy spokesman said.
He is to “meet with senior Iraqi government officials to discuss a wide range of issues related to our enduring civilian commitment to the government and people of Iraq,” said David Ranz.
A 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement signed by the two countries “envisions robust civilian cooperation in a broad range of fields, including in the area of transportation,” Ranz said in a written statement.
“The United States and Iraq have agreed to cooperate in the fields of air, land, and sea transportation as well as in the rehabilitation of Iraqi ports and the enhancement of maritime trade,” the US embassy spokesman said.
Much of Iraq’s trade, transportation and industrial infrastructure was destroyed during three decades of war and sanctions, and finally during the 2003 US-led invasion.
Around 45,000 American troops are still in Iraq, mostly tasked with training and equipping their Iraqi counterparts.
All of them must withdraw from the country by the end of the year, under the terms of a security pact, but US officials are pressing Baghdad to decide quickly whether or not it wants an extension.