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Iraq, UN Agree To Help Restore Marsh Areas

Withering reeds in the former Iraqi marsh area
Withering reeds in the former Iraqi marsh area
BAGHDAD -- A memorandum of understanding has been signed in Jordan between Iraq and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on restoring the marsh area in southern Iraq.

Fadhil al-Zogbi, the Iraq representative of the FAO, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) that a $47 million multifaceted strategy has been agreed with the Iraqi government to restore the marshes over the next five years.

The agreement covers such aspects as traditional crafts, food security, water buffalo husbandry, and water quality.

Al-Zogbi added that donor countries will meet in the summer to finalize funding arrangements while Iraq has already committed $5 million to the project.

Abbas Balasim, a representative of the state ministry for the marshes, told RFI that the memorandum signed with FAO provides for a long-term partnership with the UN agency to restore the marshes.

The marsh region -- which straddles three Iraqi provinces -- was largely destroyed by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who had it drained so that groups opposed to his rule could not hide there.