Saudis seek contracts to construct the new Iraq

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia plans to lobby for contracts to reconstruct Iraq after the fall of President Saddam Hussein.

Saudi officials have urged the Bush administration to include the kingdom in post-war projects in Iraq. They said as a neighboring state that has hosted the U.S. military Riyad should be guaranteed a level of participation in the billions of dollars of projects planned for Iraq.

Saudi industrialists have urged that companies in the kingdom team with U.S. contractors to compete for contracts issued by the U.S. Defense Department and other government agencies, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the Saudis could serve as subcontractors to U.S. firms.

"If Saudi companies do not move quickly, they will miss out on the opportunity to take part in rebuilding work in Iraq after the war," Abdul Aziz Dagestani, president of the House of Economic Studies, said. "But Saudi companies are ready to play a role in Iraq and they have the experience."

The Riyad-based Al Watan daily, which reflects government positions, reported that a consortium of Arab companies has obtained an oral commitment from the Bush administration for more than $50 million in contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq. The consortium, which specializes in construction and the maintenance of airports and sea ports, consists of 12 companies from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

"We have an advantage because we are very close to Iraq and I think we can enter in a price competition with other companies," Abdul Rahman Al Jeraisy, chairman of the Council of the Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said. "Assuming that American companies had the contract to rebuild Iraq, then they would have to buy building materials from Saudi Arabia. The most important question here is how to get more contracts for Saudi companies. We must get a share of the reconstruction mission."

The kingdom hopes to export a range of products and services to Iraq. They include material and expertise in public works, power, agriculture and infrastructure.

At the same time, Saudi companies are said to have rejected 40 offers by the U.S. military to supply coalition forces in Iraq. The latest refusal was said to have come from a leading Saudi dairy.

"The company has refused a request by a company responsible for supply of provisions to the coalition forces because this contradicts the company’s humanitarian policies," said Prince Mohammed Ibn Khaled Al Faisal, head of the Al Safi Dairy, a subsidiary of Al Faisaliah Group.

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