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Potential Iraqi Contract Recipients Gather in Washington - 2003-12-10

Representatives of dozens of mostly U.S.- based companies hoping to get a share of the lucrative contracts for reconstruction work in Iraq met Wednesday at a conference in Washington.

The conference took place only a day after the U.S. defense department announced that countries that opposed the Iraq war are barred from bidding on U.S. funded construction projects. A reporter asked Deidre Lee of the Coalition Provisional Authority whether, for example, German or French companies could partner with U.S. or British firms and thus be eligible for some of the reconstruction work. Ms. Lee made clear that prime contractors must come from countries that supported the war.

"We're limiting the primes [contractors]," she said. "Or, the primes are, let me make sure I say it correctly: It is U.S., Iraqi, coalition and troop contributing countries. Those are the prime opportunities. But as I've said, there are many, many opportunities at the sub-contracting level."

The German, French and Russian governments are displeased at being shut out from the $19 billion of prime contracts for Iraq that will soon be put out for bid.

George Sigalos, representing Halliburton, which he described as the world's largest facilities and logistics company, told the conference that Halliburton is seeking partners for the work it is doing in Iraq.

"We are obviously a large company," he said. "You hear about us all the time. But 71 percent of our business is done through sub-contracts, through small business sub-contracts. Seventy one percent, that's an extraordinary number. So when you people are sitting out there and you're thinking whether small, medium or large companies whether you can partner or join up with us or perhaps work in a jv [joint venture], or whatever it may be, the opportunity is there because the job needs to be done."

Halliburton is providing logistical support to the U.S. military throughout the Middle East and Central Asia and is a major recipient of reconstruction contracts. Vice-president Dick Cheney is a former top executive of Halliburton.

Other speakers said reconstruction is proceeding on schedule with progress already registered in health, schools, roads and banking. A new currency is to be introduced January 15. A speaker from U.S. commerce department said 2,000 Iraqi companies have registered to be possible recipients of reconstruction contracts.