U.S. to lift restrictions on foreign investment in Iraq

Monday, August 11, 2003

The United States intends to change the laws established by the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein to allow foreign investments in Iraq.

U.S. officials said Washington plans to review Iraqi law to allow for both Arab and Western investment. Currently, Iraqi law bans foreign investment by non-Arab foreign nationals.

In addition, Iraqi law does not allow Arab foreign nationals to acquire more than 49 percent of any company.

The United States has discussed investment in Iraq with its allies. The issue has been brought up with such Middle East allies as Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Turkey.

Last month, Israel's Finance Ministry lifted restrictions on investments in Iraq, which until the fall of Saddam was regarded as a hostile country, Middle East Newsline reported.

Israeli officials said discussions were being conducted with a range of Arab and Western partners for joint investment in Iraq.

U.S. administrator for Iraq Paul Bremer said the United States is discussing with the new Iraqi Governing Council a revision of the foreign investment law. Bremer did not provide a time frame.

"I don't see any reason why any country should be excluded from that once the law is changed, so there is no particular position one way or the other on Israeli companies," Bremer told a news conference on July 23. "The question now is to see if we can get the law changed."

Earlier, officials said the United States had urged Israel to form partnerships with Jordan for investment in Iraq. They said then-U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Tommy Franks insisted on this arrangement to prevent a backlash by anti-Israeli forces in Iraq.

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