French group in deal to boost Iraq power grid

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French group Schneider Electric has signed a contract with the local government in Basra to build eight electricity sub-stations in power-starved southern Iraq, an Iraqi official said on Monday.

Construction of the sub-stations is set to begin on January 14 and should take eight months, Ziad Ali of Basra provincial council and head of its electricity commission, told AFP.

A spokesperson for Schneider in Paris confirmed by telephone that the 29-million-dollar (21-million-euro) contract was signed on December 14.

Ali said the deal also contracts Schneider to maintain the installations for one year after completion.

Dozens of Iraqis staged violent protests last August in the southern city of Nasiriyah to demand better power supplies, wounding 16 people including 10 policemen.

The protest was reminiscent of demonstrations in June in several other cities over power rationing during summer temperatures of up to 54 degrees Celsius (130 degrees Fahrenheit).

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose electricity minister resigned in the wake of the protests, warned in June that two more years of shortages lay ahead as there was no quick fix to the problem.

© 2011 AFP

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