ECONOMY

Turkey-Iraq deals

Ankara (AFP) – Iraq has awarded contracts worth 550 million euros to Turkish businessmen during talks between officials from the two sides in Baghdad, Turkish officials said Monday. The figure will reach 695 million euros with the formal completion of other deals which have been agreed in principle, said a statement from the office of state minister for foreign trade Kursat Tuzmen, who on Sunday wrapped up a three-day visit to Baghdad. The statement did not give details about the contracts. Out of the 350 businessmen who accompanied Tuzmen, 60 had stayed in the Iraqi capital to complete other trade deals, the statement said. Tuzmen had earlier said he would seek to increase Turkey’s share in the UN oil-for-food program, under which Baghdad is allowed to sell a limited amount of oil to buy food and medicine. He also conveyed a message from Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, whom the United States is threatening to topple unless he proves he does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Asked about his meeting with the Iraqi president, Tuzmen told reporters late on Sunday: «Everybody is in favor of peace. Everybody wants to embrace peace,» according to the Anatolia news agency. Turkey, the only Muslim member of NATO, has strong reservations about possible military action against its southeastern neighbor, but is under pressure from its key ally the United States to back a possible war to oust the Baghdad regime. Ankara fears turmoil in Iraq would hit the fragile Turkish economy and spark unrest on both Kurdish-populated sides of the Turkish-Iraqi border. Turkey says it incurred losses of around $40 billion from trade embargoes slapped on Baghdad for its 199O invasion of Kuwait.