Iraqi prime minister makes pitch for oil, infrastructure investment

Kyodo

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressed hope Monday that Japanese corporations will invest in oil and infrastructure development in Iraq, playing down security concerns in the country.

“I think the various experiences and skills Japanese businesses have will be able to contribute to reconstruction of oil facilities and basic infrastructure” that sustained damage during the 2003 Iraq War, al-Maliki, who is on a four-day visit to Japan, said in an interview.

“I hope Japanese companies will make inroads in Iraq before it’s too late,” as companies from some other countries are already operating there, he said.

The prime minister said the Iraqi government has taken various measures to improve the security situation in the country and its business environment to encourage more Japanese investment.

Noting that the main purpose of his visit to Japan is to step up bilateral cooperation, especially on the economic front, al-Maliki added there is an abundance of business opportunities for Japanese corporations that are “respected and trusted” by people in Iraq not only in the field of natural resources but also agriculture.

Al-Maliki said greater attention is being paid to Iraqi oil amid concern about nuclear energy since the crisis began at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. He denied Iraq has plans to build a nuclear power plant.

While al-Maliki said he supports the reform and democratization efforts under way in the Middle East, he expressed concern over the situation in neighboring Syria, warning, “It will have a huge impact on the whole region if Syria comes to a state of civil war.”

He called for speedy implementation of reforms in Syria as the government has severely oppressed protesters, while disapproving of any military intervention by other countries.

Al-Maliki also said that Iraq is interested in Japanese expertise in the fields of science and technology. The government plans to send “as many exchange students as possible” to Japan as part of its plan to have around 10,000 students study overseas, he said.