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Contracts Signed For Massive Sports Complex In South Iraq

AL-BASRAH, Iraq -- A $480 million contract has been signed in the southeastern Iraqi port city of Al-Basrah between representatives of Iraq's Youth and Sports Ministry and two U.S. construction firms along with an Iraqi contractor to design and build a multiple-venue sports complex, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

Youth and Sports Minister Jassim Muhammad Jaafar told a large crowd at a local ceremony that a consortium including U.S. companies 360 Architecture and Newport Global and Iraqi Abdullah Al-Jiburi Contracting won the contract for the first phase of the massive project that is expected to cost some $8 billion.

Jaafar added that he will urge Iraqi and foreign investors to take part in the next phases of the project "before land and imported equipment become more expensive."

The first phase includes a 65,000-seat stadium, a smaller 10,000-seat facility, four training grounds, an indoor Olympic-size swimming pool, four multipurpose sports halls, a shopping mall, and eight buildings supplemented by lakes and gardens.

Al-Basrah Governor Shiltagh Abud said the city is also in need of every conceivable infrastructure project, including roads, hotels, public parks, and power plants. Iraqi contractor Abdullah Al-Jiburi pledged to complete the first phase of the project by March, 2012, ahead of the Gulf Cup soccer tournament to be hosted by Iraq in 2013.

The military commander of the Al-Basrah region, Major General Muhammad Jawad, told Radio Free Iraq that improved security has encouraged foreign firms to come to the city.

He added that Iraqi forces are working closely with the contractors to secure the building sites.

Firms from Britain, China, France, Kuwait, Russia, and Turkey also bid for the first phase of the project.