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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 February, 2004, 12:25 GMT
Iraq granted WTO observer status
The WTO in session
The United States backed Iraq's application
Iraq has been granted observer status at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), officials at the trade body have said.

The decision was made by the 146 member states of the WTO at a meeting in Geneva on Wednesday.

Iraqi authorities welcomed the move - which is a first step to gaining full membership of the body.

The country's officials will be unable to have a formal say in WTO decisions but can attend meetings and hold talks with member countries.

"It's done. They have been accepted," WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said.

Iraq... but not Iran

The United States had backed the bid which was approved unanimously by WTO members.

Ahmad al-Mukhtar, a senior Iraqi trade official, told the forum that the decision was a step towards Iraq achieving greater economic integration with the world.

"It will assist us in adopting WTO-consistent laws and regulations and Iraqis who have been forced into isolation by the previous regime will get the chance to benefit from the vast resources available at the WTO," he added.

However, application for observer status by Iran was blocked on Wednesday by the US for the fifteenth time.

The European Union and other WTO members said they hoped the US would reconsider its stance on Iran by the time of the WTO's next council meeting, which is due in May.

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