Two months ago, the governor of Baghdad narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, as a roadside bomb attack rocked his convoy, leaving two civilians dead. One week ago, Gov. Ali al-Haidri declared a 60-day state of emergency ahead of a major U.S.-Iraq military offensive against insurgents based in the city of Fallujah. This Friday, however, the Iraqi governor was in Prague to discuss plans -- and possible work for Czech engineering and construction firms -- for the reconstruction of the historic city of Baghdad.
Baghdad governor Ali al-Haidri, speaking to local Czech media on Friday with the aid of an interpreter, notes that terrorism is a global problem. The groups spreading terror in Iraq, he says, are no different than those who planned the 9/11 attacks on New York and the metro bombings in Madrid.
But Gov. al-Haidri -- himself the intended victim of an assassination attempt in September -- is looking ahead to a stable, "truly sovereign, and democratic" Iraq. The Czech Republic, which played a role in the war, is well-suited to help play a role in the reconstruction effort, the Baghdad governor says.
At an international donors' conference in October, the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cyril Svoboda, presented the official plan for the reconstruction and modernisation of the Iraqi capital, financed by a special fund of the Czech government.
Ahead of the press conference in Prague on Friday, Minister Svoboda met Gov. al-Haidri and a delegation of Iraqi experts and, separately, representatives of Czech companies now participating in aid and reconstruction projects in Iraqi. Gov. al-Haidri says it was an important opportunity to meet in person with the Czech government officials and Czech people involved in reconstruction projects and to discuss the new city plan.
Eight Czech industrial companies have taken part in trade and aid projects in Iraq with support from the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which this year allocated 12 million crowns for this purpose. These Czech companies have organised expert stays and training for Iraqi partners. In this regard, some 65 Iraqi experts are expected to work on a dozen Czech-designed projects, from oil extraction to water management, and large-scale transportation projects.
Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, presenting a comprehensive Czech plan to overhaul Baghdad, said the project, which includes plans for overhauling the Iraqi capital's electrical and telephone networks, as well as water and sewage systems, is "comprehensive and complete". However, he noted that Japan, too, was in the running for the contract.
"We believe the Czech project is good and can be successful. In addition to that, we have a long tradition in Iraq -- Czech companies have been working there since the 1960s."
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