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Iraqi Deputies Say Kuwaiti Port Development Hurts Iraq

Iraqis are hoping to enlarge their own port facilities at the Faw sea terminal.
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi parliament deputies are upset with a Kuwaiti seaport being built that they say will make its ports superfluous and seriously damage Iraq's international trade, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Kuwait is currently constructing a port on Boubyan Island -- adjacent to Iraq's sea terminal at Faw in Basra -- that is known as the Mubarak Al-Kabir Seaport.

Qusay Jumma, a member of the parliamentary Economic and Investment Committee, told RFI the Kuwait project will hamper Iraqi efforts to develop its own ports, including its enlargement of the Faw sea terminal and construction of a freight rail track linking Iraq's only sea outlet to Europe via Turkey.

Jumma said a signature campaign has been launched by members of parliament from various factions to petition the government to pressure Kuwait to curtail or halt its project.

He described Kuwait's proposals to resolve the problem as "woefully inadequate," vowing that "petitions or no petitions we will act resolutely to defend Iraq's territorial waters and trade routes."

Iraqi ports authority spokesman Anmar al-Safi told RFI that he is urging the government to speed up construction of the Al-Faw Grand Port project, currently under way by Italian contractors, in order to foil Kuwait's plans which, he said, would stifle business at Iraq's seaports.

Safi said Iraq's strategic location as a transit country between Asia and Europe demands that it develop its seaports and other trade facilities to transform the country into a global trade hub.

Economist Bassim Ibrahim told RFI the Mubarak Al-Kabir project will greatly diminish the relevance of Iraq's ports and virtually spell the demise of the Al-Faw Grand Port project.

Ibrahim said it is imperative to reach a negotiated solution with the Kuwaitis as soon as possible pointing out that the issue may seem economic but is essentially political and has to be solved by political means.

Reuters has quoted Iraqi officials as saying that the $6 billion Al-Faw Grand Port project together with the new rail system will create a regional transport conduit that will rival the Suez Canal in Egypt.