French forum focussing on Iraq

With the announcement of contracts already being awarded to US companies for the reconstruction of Iraq, France has established a committee to look at its future position.

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By  John Irish Published  April 2, 2003

The French Ministry of Economy and the Medef (Association of French Companies) has set up a forum to discuss the Gallic state’s future role in Iraq. The committee will comprise ten high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Economy and the Medef.

French companies have increasingly felt threatened by the evolving situation in Iraq following the government’s opposition to the war and many feel that French interests will be neglected when it comes to awarding future contracts in Iraq.

This decision follows a spate of announcements made by the US authorities aimed at awarding contracts to American companies, such as Halliburton and Bechtel for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.

Although the Ministry of Economy and Medef declined to officially confirm that the forum was in place, a spokesman from the Ministry of Finance confirmed that discussions on the future of Iraq were taking place.

“We are looking at the post-war situation, on an economic, financial and industrial level. France will be part of it within the framework of a UN plan,” said the spokesmen.

Since the first Gulf War, French companies have carefully and quietly nurtured ties with the Baathist state. With the partial lifting of the embargo in Iraq in 1996, France has exported approximately € 660 million worth of products as part of the United Nations food for oil programme.

Representatives of the French government, Medef and the Association of Franco-Iraqi Economic Cooperation (AFICE) are also expected to meet tomorrow (April 03) to outline the dangers of French companies negotiating with the US to gain contracts in post-war Iraq.

According to Gilles Munier, secretary general of l’AFICE, American companies will have problems reconstructing Iraq due to the resentment felt by the Iraqi people as a result of the war, which he claims will inevitably benefit French companies.

“I don’t see how American executives will be able to work in Iraq when their lives are in danger. There is an inbuilt hatred of Americans,” he told Associated Press.

In a separate interview on March 30, French President Jacques Chirac, refused to touch on the subject of post-war Iraq, suggesting that it was a little premature to be discussing reconstruction when the country was in the process of being destroyed.

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