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Bechtel quits working in Iraq

Engineering and construction giant bows out of contracting in the country after the death of 52 workers over three years

After the completion of nearly 100 projects at a cost US $2.3 billion over three years, US-based engineering and construction company, Bechtel, has decided to pull out of Iraq having witnessed the death of 52 workers and the wounding of 49.

“We were told it would be a permissive environment. But to the horror of everyone, it never stabilised. It just went down, down, down, and to this day it continues to go down,” said Cliff Mumm, who ran Bechtel’s Iraq operation.

“I’m proud of what we did, but had law and order prevailed, it would be a different situation,” he added.

Bechtel’s last government contract to rebuild power, water and sewage plants across Iraq expired at the end of last month.

Bechtel’s contracts were part of the US effort to put Iraq back on its feet after the US-led invasion of the country and decades of sanctions under Saddam Hussein, who was this week sentenced to death for crimes against humanity.

Despite the situation in Iraq, Bechtel said it had finished all its jobs with the exception of a water treatment plant in Baghdad and a two-storey children’s hospital in Basra.

The government suspended work on the hospital last summer amid rising security expenses that drove the project well above its original $50 million cost. Bechtel estimated it would have taken at least $98 million to finish the hospital.

The company said this week that only two Bechtel employees were left in the country, while at its peak, there were 200 people from the firm supervising tens of thousands of Iraqis on construction projects.

Some employees will remain to finish the paperwork, but the conclusion of this contract represents the end of Bechtel’s involvement in Iraq.

The company has completed more than 22,000 projects in 140 countries, including the Channel Tunnel, which connects England to France.

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