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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 06:11 GMT 07:11 UK
Risky business in Iraq
Iraqis surround burnt-out car in Falluja
Four US contractors were brutally killed in Falluja last month
A full year after US-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, the country appears no safer for the men and women who live and work there.

As a showdown between US forces and supporters of radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr looms, many armed Iraqi groups have started targeting foreign contractors and investors.

Two businessmen with interests in Iraq told the BBC's World Business Report about their recent experiences there.

Faruq Magazachi is the Iraqi manager of a refrigeration company with bases in Baghdad and France. A bomb blast forced him to close his Baghdad office at the beginning of the year.

"It was on New Year's Eve. There is a restaurant about 100 metres from us, and the bomb went off there at about eight o'clock in the evening.

"Our building and many buildings around it were severely damaged. All the windows blew out, so we had to close and rebuild.

It's my country and I will keep on trying
Faruq Magazuchi
"Luckily, it was at night and we were closed, so we didn't have any casualties.

"Not only myself but also my staff were reluctant to go on like that. In November or October we had another blast.

"The worst part was when one of our supervisors went on a technical mission to repair some refrigeration units for the Ministry of Health.

"On the way back he was attacked by four men in a car. They shot at him - he was wounded in his left arm and the bullet is still there - they cannot take it out.

"When you have things like this happening you are reluctant to send your people out for technical support and after-sales services.

"This jeopardises our entire operation.

"But it's my country, and I will keep on trying. We can't just give up, this is our country, and we want to rebuild it and rebuild it fast."

David Horgan is managing director of Petrel Resources, an Irish-based oil exploration company with a strong presence in Iraq. He was in Falluja on 31 March, when four US contractors passing through the town were killed and mutilated in a high-profile ambush.

"Conditions for most people have deteriorated because most people are not particularly concerned about access to a free press, they are more concerned about clean water, power and basic security.

If you're with competent, well-connected Iraqis, you seem to be able to avoid most difficulties
David Horgan, Petrel Resources
"The life of ordinary Iraqis, particularly in Baghdad, is really quite difficult.

"We were warned by Iraqi business people and senior people in the ministries last January that foreign contractors were now in danger.

"Until that point you hadn't really felt in danger at all.

"People were interested in finding out what you were doing, and we understood that subversive characters were checking out the hotels, but there wasn't a sense that business people were being targeted.

"Now the situation is much more fluid and changing, and it's really hard to know what the future holds. You've got to be somewhat more circumspect and somewhat more careful.

"You find very quickly that the drivers in Iraq seem to have a sixth sense for what's going to happen.

"The Wednesday before last, we were driving into Falluja, where that terrible tragedy happened with the US contractors, and it was obvious that the drivers were quite nervous.

"We ran into a backlog of traffic on the outskirts of Falluja, and our driver immediately reversed at high speed and then turned off the road and drove off across rough terrain.

Even Iraqis who are totally alienated from the occupation are totally committed to rebuilding their country
David Horgan
"We only found out the cause of the disturbance later on when we arrived in Baghdad and we realised what happened to the contractors.

"If you're with competent, well-connected Iraqis, you seem to be able to avoid most difficulties, although it's obviously not conducive to doing business.

"If you were to give in to the danger and intimidation you'd be giving in to the hardliners. Also, given that we've been going there for some time, if you stop going, that's making a statement as well.

"There's no doubt that postwar relations have been particularly warm. They really like to see you visiting and sharing their experiences.

"Even Iraqis who are totally alienated from the occupation are totally committed to rebuilding their country."

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