Maliki Calls on US Firms to Help Rebuild Iraq

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called on U.S. companies to help rebuild Iraq, according to Reuters.

In a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Maliki said:

"As much as we committed to defeat terrorism, we are now committed to grow the private sector ... It is now not the generals, but corporations and business leaders who will be at the front of this stage."

He told the packed crowd of U.S. business officials Iraq has the opportunity to work with companies from all over the world to rebuild itself after three decades of war, but it believes the United States has the "best companies" to help it help it diversify its economy away from one heavily dependent on oil.

"We are not satisfied with the number of American companies in Iraq," he said, adding the Iraqi government would make it "as easy as possible" for U.S. companies to invest.

Maliki led a delegation that included top Iraqi trade, investment and transportation officials and about 30 to 40 business leaders from energy, construction, health care and other sectors eager to make deals with American companies.

The U.S. Commerce Department hosted a "matchmaking session" on Wednesday to allow interested U.S. and Iraqi companies to meet one-on-one.

"In the coming years, it's estimated that Iraq's economy will grow even faster than China's or India's. With oil production rising, Iraq is on track to once again be one of the region's leading oil producers," President Barack Obama said.

Commerce Secretary John Bryson added that Iraq's plan to spend about $186 billion over the next five years on more than 2,700 development projects is a promising opportunity for U.S. companies that will also help put people back to work in the United States.

The United States currently trails other countries in investing in Iraq, despite the heavy price it has paid over the past decade in the country.

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