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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 15:12 GMT
College unites with Iraq students
Marshland Iraq
Iraq's environment has suffered from years of neglect
One of Wales' top universities has teamed up with a college in Iraq - the first deal of its kind since the war - in an attempt to help the environment.

Bangor University signed an official agreement with the University of Technology in Baghdad on Wednesday.

The deal aims to aid environmental management and monitoring skills in the country.

One of the main issues is the salinity problem caused by the draining of Iraq's historic marsh lands.

The deal is the first post-war agreement between UK and Iraqi higher education institutions.

Expertise and support from Bangor University's Centre for Arid Zone studies will be used to help regenerate the academic standing of the Baghdad college as it undertakes environmental research.

"Our country is now struggling to overcome two recent wars as well as 30 years of mismanagement and neglect," said Dr Wail Al-Rifaie, president of the University of Technology, Baghdad.

"It is hoped that this memorandum of understanding will reinvigorate our research and development in various areas and reintegrate Iraqi students and academics into the international intellectual community."

University of Wales, Bangor
Bangor University hopes to offer expert advice

Problems such as the draining of the historic marshlands in Iraq, which has caused salinity problems, and the need to upgrade the date palm plant stock will be addressed.

"Both these problems are areas in which the centre for arid zone studies is well-versed," said Dr Ian Robinson, from Bangor.

"This memorandum enables us to make our academic and technical expertise available and to develop joint research projects and other joint ventures in the future."

During the 1990s, thousands of people living in Iraq's southern marshlands were driven into destitution as Saddam Hussein dried up the water that had sustained a way of life dating back around 5,000 years.

The marshlands, once the size of Wales, slowly became a desiccated wasteland.

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