By Emil Danielyan
Armenia said on Tuesday that its companies may participate in the post-war reconstruction of Iraq despite its exclusion by Washington from the list of countries that supported the American military action and are eligible for U.S.-funded contracts.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry revealed that it is currently discussing the matter with U.S. officials. It also reaffirmed official Yerevan’s intention to send non-combat military personnel to Iraq.
“Not participating at this stage of the tenders process does not close the doors before us,” ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian said in a statement. “The current bidding refers to the first contracts, and the likelihood of winning them is low even for those countries which are on the list. On the contrary, Armenian companies, can in the future have the opportunity to participate in profitable contracts as subcontractors.”
“This is currently under discussion with the US and we are hopeful that the results will be positive,” he added.
The list drawn up by the administration of President George W. Bush comprises 61 countries that explicitly endorsed the controversial U.S. war effort. Among them are neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia. War opponents were thus barred from getting $18.6 billion in the Pentagon-administered contracts to rebuild Iraq.
Armenia declined to support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, citing the absence of appropriate UN resolutions and thereby siding with countries like Russia and France on the issue. However, it was quick to welcome the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Yerevan argued subsequently that a decision to join Washington’s “coalition of the willing” would have endangered the lives of thousands of Iraqi Armenians. According to Gasparian, the U.S. “understood this concern.”
“Armenia has already announced that it is prepared to send military medical personnel, de-miners, and other support staff to Iraq,” the spokesman said. “The Armenian side is currently negotiating the technical aspects of this plan.”
Speaking on October 8, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway said Washington “very much appreciates” the offer but will decide whether to accept it after the talks.
(AP-Photolur photo: U.S soldiers gather at the scene where seven Iraqi police officers were wounded when a car bomb exploded Monday in the western Ameriyah neighborhood of Baghdad.)