By Padraig O'Hannelly.
The United Kingdom's Ambassador to Baghdad has said Iraq has the potential to become an economic force in the region, and encouraged British businesses to take advantage of the opportunities it presents.
Addressing senior executives at the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC)'s Spring Conference in London on Wednesday, H.E. Frank Baker OBE said that to achieve this, Iraq needs to realise its vision to implement substantive economic reforms and to rebuild key infrastructure and institutions, adding:
"This economic reform cannot take place without developing the country's private sector, because that in turn will help bring about stability and prosperity.
"Despite all the challenges, Iraq offers one of the greatest investment opportunities in the region."
Referring to "stifling bureaucracy and corruption", the Ambassador acknowledged that it is not a market for the faint hearted, but advised British enterprises with a "buccaneering spirit" take on the challenge.
"Iraq will offer one of the biggest investment opportunities to UK companies in the first half of this century, but to do so, British business has to be prepared to manage the risks and to take chances."
Louis Taylor, Chief Executive of UK Export Finance (UKEF), said that there was £500 million ($750 million) in export credit cover available to UK businesses for contracts in Iraq.
The conference continues on Thursday.