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Last Updated: Monday, 22 December, 2003, 10:42 GMT
Iraqis discuss old Russian deals

Steve Rosenberg
BBC correspondent in Moscow

Iraqi oil worker
Under Saddam Hussein Russia had lucrative deals with Iraq
A delegation from the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council is in Moscow for talks on business deals signed under Saddam Hussein's regime.

The group is expected to meet businessmen and senior Russian officials to discuss the contracts.

The business deals are believed to be one reason why Russia was opposed to military action against Iraq.

But with a new leadership now in place in Iraq, Russia will want those agreements honoured.

New deals?

To Washington, Iraq under Saddam Hussein was part of an axis of evil. To Moscow, though, it was a source of income.

A string of Russian companies signed potentially lucrative deals with Baghdad, particularly in the field of oil and construction.

Since Saddam Hussein was removed from power, those contacts have been in limbo - and Moscow is determined to see they are respected.

Iraq's $8 billion debt to Moscow is also likely to be discussed in talks with the visiting delegation.

Moscow has already hinted it may make the question of restructuring of the debt conditional to the honouring of existing business contracts.

And then there is the possibility of new deals to help rebuild Iraq.

Up until now, Russia - as an opponent of the war - has been excluded from bidding for reconstruction projects.

Moscow will be keen for that to change.

For its part, Iraq's US-appointed leadership says it is hoping to forge a new relationship with Russia.

On arrival in Moscow, one of its members - Jamal Talabani - said the aim of the visit was to seek a better understanding between Baghdad and Moscow.

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