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Last Updated:  Monday, 10 March, 2003, 23:41 GMT
US awards deals for post-war Iraq
Damage from 1991 Gulf war
Bridges had to be rebuilt after the 1991 war
The US Government has invited companies to compete for projects which could begin in Iraq immediately after a war.

Plans for the rebuilding deals - worth up to $900m - are being co-ordinated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid).

The agency is said to have discreetly sent out requests for tenders from at least five companies involved in infrastructure and engineering.

Education, health, transport and energy schemes are involved in what would be the biggest rebuilding project since World War II.

Plans for the reconstruction have been detailed in a privately distributed USAid document, called Vision for post-conflict Iraq.

A USAid spokeswoman said that the companies were chosen because of their proven ability, and that it was a policy to use US companies for projects funded by the American taxpayer.

Non-US companies were free, through their governments, to organise their own business, she said.

Firefighting offer

Among the companies invited to tender is the Texas-based Halliburton, where US Vice-President Dick Cheney served as chief executive from 1995 to 2000.

Halliburton has already been reported to have acquired a contract to oversee firefighting operations at Iraqi oilfields after any invasion.

Many more contracts will have to be awarded after any possible war.

Estimates of the cost of rebuilding a post-war Iraq vary widely - unofficial figures from the United Nations suggest it could be as much as $30bn.

'Misleading' comparisons

A UN Development Programme spokesman told BBC News Online: "Iraq has a unique economy - its people are among the poorest in the world yet it has a modern industrialised infrastructure."

He said that comparisons with Afghanistan, which is costing about $2bn to reconstruct following a US-led war to oust the Taleban regime, were "misleading".

He noted that the amount of oil produced by Iraq had plummeted from 3.5 million barrels a day at the end of the 1980s to 2 million at present.

"It's the only source of foreign earnings, so any idea that Iraq can pay its own way without a substantial period of reinvestment is very wide of the mark," the spokesman said.

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