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S. Korea, Iraq Ink Accord on $3.55 bil. Deal to Reconstruct War-torn Arab Country
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak (right) and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani sign US$3.55-billion deal on Feb. 24, 2009.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and visiting Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Feb. 24, 2009 signed a US$3.55-billion deal to help rebuild the war-torn nation and set up various forms of social infrastructure in exchange for nearly 2 billion barrels of Iraqi oil.

With this agreement, our side can now acquire rights to develop oil reserves in Iraq's Basra region, where most Iraqi oil is produced, Lee Dong-kwan. presidential spokesman said.

Thanks to the deal, oil is immediately available to South Korea, whereas in agreements with other countries South Korea has to first help develop oil reserves.

The Basra region is said to account for some 70 percent all oil production in Iraq, the world's third largest producer.

South Korea's offer is only a small portion of some $150 billion expected to be needed over the next eight years to rehabilitate Iraq, but Seoul expressed hope more South Korean businesses will be able to take part in various projects to rebuild the Middle East nation.

"President Lee also requested that South Korean businesses be allowed to take part in Iraq's $550-million project to buy new generators and in designing a new oil refinery, worth $84 million," the presidential office said.

Talabani called for strengthening of the Korea-Iraq relationship while also thanking Lee for Seoul's contribution so far to help his nation.

"Especially, President Talabani noted the important role played by South Korea's Zaytun unit to establish peace in Iraq and rebuild the country and expressed the gratitude of the Iraqi government for the Zaytun unit," Cheong Wa Dae said.

Speaking at a separate meeting with business representatives at a hotel here, the Iraqi president repeated his hope that more South Korean firms will take part in the reconstruction of his country.

"We have a plenty of natural resources. I hope that many South Korean companies will contribute to rebuilding Iraq," Talabani said at a meeting hosted by the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).

Sohn Kyung-shik, chairman of the KCCI, welcomed the invitation, noting South Korean firms have carried out large-scale construction projects in Middle Eastern countries for over 40 years and that such experience will be very "helpful."

Meanwhile, a $31-million deal was also signed Tuesday between Seoul's Incheon Airport Corporation and Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government to provide the Korean airport's operating systems to the Iraqi region where the Zaytun was deployed from 2004 to late last year.

"The deal marks the first case in which our know-how in operating an international airport is exported," the Cheong Wa Dae said.

The Iraqi president is currently on a four-day visit here that began Monday, accompanied by some 60 government officials and business representatives.

Talabani is the first Iraqi president to make a state visit to Korea since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1989.






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