The Pentagon has ruled that firms from countries that did not support the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq will be barred from bidding on lucrative reconstruction contracts.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says that for security reasons, key reconstruction contracts will be given only to firms from the United States, Iraq and those countries that have provided troops or other support for the coalition war effort.
The ruling is spelled out in a document dated last Friday but only released Tuesday by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
The ruling means companies from countries like France, Germany and Russia will not be allowed to bid on 26 key contracts worth close to $19 billion. The contracts cover the rebuilding of Iraq's oil industry, its electrical and water works, together with communications projects and other building programs and the re-equipping of a new Iraqi army.
The Wolfowitz document says limiting contracts to firms from coalition countries will encourage their continued cooperation. It also suggests limiting competition could expand international participation in the rebuilding of Iraq.
The document includes a list of 63 countries considered eligible to bid for Iraq reconstruction contracts. They include such key U.S. partners as Britain, Italy and Spain and several East European, Latin American, African and Asian countries.
Asked if the list is likely to renew bad feelings between the United States and France, Germany and Russia over the Iraq war, a senior defense official says the Pentagon is not concerned.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says those countries excluded from the bidding process are still welcome to join the coalition.