Iraq seeks more foreign investment
Baghdad, September 17, 2009
Iraq's prime minister has appealed for more foreign investment in the country even as rocket attacks on key installations highlighted continuing security problems.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said a conference in Washington on October 20-21 would showcase investment opportunities and contracts in Iraq as it emerges from the sectarian killing unleashed by the 2003 US invasion.
He did not mention several rockets that rained on the fortified Green Zone government district on Tuesday shortly after US Ambassador Chris Hill and US military commander General Ray Odierno met US Vice President Joe Biden there.
Two people were killed and five wounded when one rocket landed on a block of flats.
Another rocket fired at the Green Zone on Wednesday, about 10 minutes after Maliki and Biden, finished a news conference fell short and wounded two civilians on the opposite side of the Tigris River, police said.
A second rocket struck near the US embassy compound.
'We discussed the need for the conference to be a success in order to provide investment opportunities and we spoke about how to advance the various legislative reforms needed with regards to investment,' Maliki said after meeting Biden.
He ordered Iraqi government ministries to draw up lists of contracts that would be offered to big corporations at the investment conference.
Iraq desperately needs foreign cash to rebuild a country shattered by decades of war and sanctions but even as violence has fallen the wave of investment hoped for since 2003 has not yet materialised outside of the oil sector.
Biden flew in on his second visit to Iraq in three months to keep up pressure on Iraq's leaders to seek political compromises that could cement its democracy and prevent a slide back into broader conflict.
While overall violence has fallen sharply over the past 18 months, unresolved tensions between once dominant Sunnis, majority Shi'ites and minority ethnic Kurds who enjoy virtual independence in Iraq's north could yet tear the country apart.
Sunni Islamist insurgents stage frequent bomb attacks such as two massive truck bombs on August 19 that killed at least 95 people at the foreign and finance ministries.
The truck bombs shattered a growing sense of optimism among Iraqis and public confidence in the ability of Iraqi police and soldiers to protect the population as US troops begin to pull back before a full withdrawal by the end of 2011.
Biden said the August 19 attacks showed a continued need for vigilance.
'We are confident the terrorists will fail,' Biden said at a joint news conference with Maliki. – Reuters