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Iraq is drafting an arbitration law as a step toward accession to an international convention on recognition and enforcement of arbitration awards, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Abdel Sattar al-Beriqdar, a spokesman for Iraq's High Judicial Council, told RFI that Iraq is keen to join the 1958 New York Convention on international arbitration.

He said the country's first commercial arbitration court has been established in Baghdad to settle trade disputes involving non-Iraqi business partners, and similar courts are planned for other provinces that have foreign investment potential, such as Basra and Ninevah.

Judge Delissa Ridgway of the U.S Department of Commerce held a three-day workshop in Baghdad this week to explain international commercial arbitration to Iraqi judges.

The workshop was attended by some 20 judges from different parts of Iraq and various courts, including appeals courts, courts of appeal, the cassation court, and administrative courts.

Ridgway, former chairwoman of the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, told RFI that "Iraq has a rich tradition of law and some treaties from the early days of international arbitration, but the newest convention, which now has been signed by 145 countries around the world, is something the Iraqi judges are very curious about."

Ridgway said the Iraqi chief justice was particularly interested in arbitration because of the innovation of the commercial courts, "something much of the world doesn't have."

She said her workshop is part of a strategic framework agreement between the United States and Iraq. She said the two are working to rebuild the legal infrastructure in Iraq so that "it will be a full member of the international legal community."

"Iraq is poised to be a leader in the international business community and it is being very smart, it is now looking around the world at whatever countries are doing and is picking the best and making it is own," Ridgway said.

She explained that "this new arbitration law that Iraq is considering will be a very big surprise to the rest of the world -- of how modern it is, while enacting the New York Convention after that will be the most important single step Iraq could take to welcome international trade and investment."
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