WASHINGTON - Iraq's ambassador-designate to the
United States on Monday urged the U.S.-led authority in her
country to give more U.S.-funded contracts to local firms,
saying that would improve security as well as boost jobs.
Speaking at an Iraqi reconstruction conference in
Washington, envoy Rend Rahim Francke said she wanted to see
more Iraqis get work rebuilding their own country rather than
By handing out most contracts to foreign companies, the
bulk of which are American, Rahim said the United States was
"Alienation within the country is a dangerous feeling and
can lead to revolution. We must be careful about that," said
Rahim, the Iraqi Governing Council's top diplomat and an
Unemployment in Iraq is conservatively estimated to be more
than 50 percent and Rahim said that was contributing to the
violence in Iraq where U.S. troops and contractors come under
"Jobs for Iraqis will create stability and peace in Iraq
instead of terrorism. This correlation is absolutely certain,"
The first round of contracts to rebuild Iraq went to a
handful of established U.S. companies such as oil services
giant Halliburton and San Francisco engineering company
Bechtel, which in turn have subcontracted projects.
A second round funded by $18.6 billion appropriated by the
U.S. Congress is now being handed out, and $5 billion in
construction work is set to be announced next month.
U.S. OFFICIALS DEFEND CONTRACTS
U.S. officials defended the contracting process and said
they were working hard to ensure Iraqis got their share.
"It is very clear to us that this is a job for the Iraqi
people and the Iraqi people are up for the task," said Joe
Benkert, U.S.-based chief of operations for the Coalition
Benkert said a U.S. Treasury study estimated U.S.-funded
reconstruction projects would lead to 50,000 new jobs in Iraq
by the summer and 1.7 million new jobs over the next few years.
James Krum, director of program management at the Pentagon,
said while the goal was to get as many Iraqis involved as
possible, contracts would be given to "the A team who can hit
the ground running."
Falah Wajdi, who runs an Iraqi engineering company, said
companies such as his were getting only small deals when, he
said, they had the capacity to do more.
He said his company had won 28 contracts so far but the
value of those was under $1 million. "We are getting small,
small stuff that is not worth talking about," he said.
Rahim said she had complained in the past to the CPA over
the use of laborers from as far afield as Asia when millions of
Iraqis were unemployed.
"It was a public relations disaster," she said of an
initial decision to import labor, adding the situation had
The head of a Jordanian company, Khaled Kanaan, told
Reuters his firm, a subcontractor in Iraq, was still using a
lot of foreign laborers, including workers from the
Philippines, Sudan, Nigeria and Kuwait.
Kanaan said most of their work was on U.S. bases and it was
hard to get clearance for Iraqis because of constant attacks on
U.S. forces in Iraq.
"Believe me, it's cheaper to hire Iraqis, but we had to go
outside. It was getting too difficult," said Kanaan.
© Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd