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Envoy calls on Iran to help with Iraq's reconstruction

2/28/05 Tehran, Feb 28, IRNA -- Iraqi Ambassador to Tehran Muhammaed Majid al-Sheikh invited Iran Monday to participate in his shattered country's reconstruction, putting behind years of hostile relationship under Saddam Hussein's rule.

But with the United States' omnipresence in the occupied country, it remains unclear how much the two neighbors can practically go ahead with such an interaction.

In Washington's eyes, Iran is a destabilizing factor which must be kept at an arm's length from the next government in Iraq, even as the emergence of a dominant Shiite administration, favored by Iran, is beyond doubt.

While al-Sheikh adverted to the unclear modes of trade interaction between the two countries as being the major challenges, he shied away from going far.

Instead, he called for 'institutionalizing trade ties' between the two countries and complained that some accords were being concluded without the due supervision of their officials.

Al-Sheikh also touched on cultural and religious affinities between the two countries, hoping trade and economic ties will be further promoted with the establishment of the new Iraqi government.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has helpful experience which it can use in accelerating Iraq's reconstruction," he told a joint meeting with members of Iran's Chamber of Commerce.

Trade transactions between the two countries last year are estimated at one billion dollars.

Head of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Alinaqi Khamoushi, voiced the country's readiness to help Iraq in such areas as construction of dams and energy plants.

He said so far Britain, Russia, Poland, Japan and Germany have interest in going into partnership with Iran in carrying out large-scale reconstruction projects in Iraq.

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