US still blocking France from Iraq

29th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (AFP) - The United States has not formally decided whether French companies will be allowed to participate bid in the second round of Iraqi reconstruction contracts, the US State Department spokesman said Wednesday.

WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (AFP) - The United States has not formally decided whether French companies will be allowed to participate bid in the second round of Iraqi reconstruction contracts, the US State Department spokesman said Wednesday.

"There is, I guess, a second round coming up," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "We'll just have to wait until the time arrives to see where we stand at that point with eligibility."

A French Foreign Trade Ministry spokeswoman said Tuesday that Grant Aldonas, the US under secretary of commerce for international trade, had assured French officials that French companies would be able to take part in the next round of reconstruction contracts.

Aldonas, during talks with Foreign Trade Minister Francois Loos, "confirmed that French companies will be able to intervene as subcontractor for the first round of contracts for Iraq's reconstruction", the spokeswoman said.

Aldonas also said French companies would be allowed to "compete directly and freely" in the second round of contracts, according to the spokeswoman.

In December, the United States excluded countries that opposed the Iraq war from bidding for US-funded reconstruction contracts, preventing Canada, France, Germany and Russia from bidding on initial Iraq contracts, but said earlier this month it might reconsider.

"I'd just have to refer you back to what we said before, that the circumstances can change with regard to the contracting list," Boucher said.

The United States has allowed companies from anti-war countries to take part in subcontracted jobs.

US officials have also indicated that they could ease their stance on future contracts with countries that show more cooperation on Iraq.

Earlier this month, the United States let Canada back into the bidding process after President George W. Bush met with its newly elected Prime Minister Paul Martin.

"They want Iraq to succeed, they want Iraq to be free. They understand the stakes with having a free country in the midst of the Middle East," Bush told reporters on January 13.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan Tuesday said Canada's situation changed because of its position at an international conference on Iraq's reconstruction held in Madrid.

Martin's predecessor, Jean Chretien, opposed the Iraq war but gave about USD 200 million toward the reconstruction fund at the Madrid Donors Conference in September.

"And I said at that time that (circumstances) may change for others, as well," McClellan said without naming countries. "But that's where it stands."

US Vice President Dick Cheney told an Italian newspaper Wednesday that the United States was "disappointed" by certain positions taken by French President Jacques Chirac on the war in Iraq.

"But that is now behind us," Cheney told Corriere della Sera.

Cheney said the restrictions on bidding were limited to projects "directly financed by American taxpayers" and that every country was allowed to bid for subcontracts.

© AFP

                                Subject: France news

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