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Etisalat reveals plan for Iraqi mobile move

Telecoms firm chief in talks with existing operator, will enter market by end of year.

Telecoms firm Etisalat said on Thursday it plans to enter the Iraqi market before the end of the year.

Chief operating officer Ahmad Julfar said his Dubai-based company was in talks to acquire an existing operator which has a licence covering a limited area in Iraq, and Etisalat planned to later extend its services across the country. He did not name the operator.

"Iraq has a lot of potential because of the unavailability of fixed-line telephones because of war conditions," Julfar told Reuters, without giving further details.

In August 2007, Etisalat decided not to bid for an Iraqi mobile phone licence. Iraq later sold three licences for $3.75 billion to Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications (Zain) - a regional competitor of Etisalat - Asiacell and Korek, which all already ran networks in the country.

Asiacell is an affiliate of Qatar Telecommunications Co, another regional competitor of Etisalat.

In December, Zain agreed to pay $1.2 billion for Orascom Telecom's Iraqi mobile telephone unit. Zain already had an Iraq network through its MTC-Atheer unit.

Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat, which lost its monopoly at home with the launch of services by du in 2007, operates in countries including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and several African countries. (Reuters)

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