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Cairo Initials Trade Agreements with Baghdad - 2001-12-30

Despite the U.N. Security Council's economic embargo against Iraq, Egypt and Iraq signed accords Sunday strengthening economic relations. A former Egyptian government official insists the agreements do not violate the embargo.

The agreements forge a working partnership on industrial, trade, and technical issues. They strengthen a six-month-old free trade agreement between the two nations.

Cairo and Baghdad also signed agreements to facilitate the modernization of Iraq's electricity industry in addition to setting up joint-venture sea and land companies.

Abdullah El Ashaal is the former assistant to the Egyptian Minister of International Legal Affairs and Treaties. He says the agreements reached between the two counties were extensively examined for legal compliance with Security Council sanctions. "Concerning Egypt and Iraq, this question has been considered from the legal point of view to see that Egypt is in line with the embargo, which is imposed by the Security Council," he explained. "If we take this in a very meticulous sense we find that Egypt is not violating the agreement but Egypt is cooperating with Iraq in the framework of economic sense."

Relations between the two countries have been minimal for the past few years. Ties were severed in 1991 when Egypt sided with the United States at the outbreak of the Gulf War.