Brinkley told journalists that economic growth could help quell the city's sectarian violence.
 
"There is a recognition that security and economic prosperity go hand in hand, and that unemployment in Iraq is contributing to the frustrations of people and creating sympathy for insurgents."

  

Since US-led forces entered Iraq in 2003 to overthrow the government of Saddam Hussein, most factories have been lying idle or operating at very low rates of production, he said.

  

Good enough

 

Many of these companies possess modern equipment, while others have machinery at least as good as many enterprises operating efficiently in India and China.

  

"They can quickly be revitalised," Brinkley said. "The factories served as the engine for the Iraqi economy and must be restarted."

  

The US government, he said, is working with the ministries of finance and industry, as well as with Barham Saleh, deputy prime minister, "to get this economic engine running again so that thousands ... can regain employment".

 

"I'm a retired army general and I'm here to do business in Iraq ... that in itself is a message"

Julian Burns, vice president of BAE Systems

Enterprises that could be restarted fairly easily, he said, included upstream and downstream oil activities, textiles, heavy machinery, chemicals, minerals and electronics, among others.

  

At the same time, he said, his department is involved in efforts to connect international entrepreneurs with Iraqi business leaders so that private concerns and factories can be jolted back to life.

  

He and his group had travelled around Baghdad and the provinces or districts of Anbar, Iskandiriya, Arbil and Diyala, meeting business leaders, farmers and others from across the social and economic spectrum.

  

More jobs

 

Fred Cook, a US government specialist in labour affairs, said: "The industry ministry controls 200 factory sites, but these factories are running on average at only 10 per cent of capacity.

  

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"The ministry has 196,000 workers on its payroll, but only a small fraction of these are actively employed in factories. Most are under-employed and paid only a small fraction of what they were  previously paid," he said.

       

Julian Burns, vice president of BAE Systems North America, which makes trucks as well as defence and aerospace systems, said he had found in the Iraqis a "resourceful and proud people who are ready to do business".

  

He was not concerned, he said, about talk of Iraq sliding relentlessly towards civil war.

  

"I'm a retired army general and I'm here to do business in Iraq," he said. "That in itself is a message."