The official, Deputy Minister for Industrial Development Adel Karim, was speaking on Sunday on the eve of an international meeting to assess reconstruction activities in the war-wrecked nation.

 

The minister said Iraq wanted to sell cement, brick and pharmaceutical factories as a first step. He declined to discuss specifics or say whether the oil sector might also be considered.

 

But he conceded that deteriorating security might hamper the privatisation effort. "The security situation in Iraq is extremely bad, and obviously safety remains a top priority for businessmen who think about coming to invest in Iraq," Karim said.

 

"We want to give the private sector a leading role, and that's why we want to privatise sectors owned by the state," he said on the sidelines of a workshop in Amman discussing investment opportunities in Iraq.

 

Workshop

 

The workshop, organised by his ministry in cooperation with the American Chamber of Commerce in Jordan, comes a day before representatives of 60 countries and international organisations gathered to review Iraq's reconstruction checklist and coordinate with donors on ways to move forward.

 

The two-day meeting will be held behind closed doors in the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth.

 

"We want to give the private sector a leading role and that's why we want to privatise sectors owned by the state"

Adel Karim,
deputy minister for industrial development

It is sponsored by the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq, which was launched early in 2004 by the United Nations and the World Bank to help donor nations channel their resources and coordinate their support for reconstruction and development in Iraq.

 

So far, 25 donor countries - including the United States, Japan and Canada - have pledged more than $1 billion to the fund. The money is different from the $32 billion in loans and grants pledged for Iraq's reconstruction at the October 2003 Donor Conference in Madrid, Spain.

 

The International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq said in a statement that participants would "review progress and lessons learned" while rebuilding the country.

 

It did not elaborate but noted that the event is "broadly expected to follow through on support expressed for the political transition in Iraq and to provide a new momentum to reconstruction efforts".