By John Lee.

The trial has begun in London of three British businessmen accused of conspiring to pay bribes totalling $6m (£4.6m) to win contracts in Iraq worth $800 million.

According to the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Monaco-based Unaoil bribed Iraqi officials to help Dutch-based SBM Offshore [Single Buoy Moorings], and Singapore’s Leighton Offshore, to secure the contracts between 2005 and 2013.

The Guardian reports that Ziad Akle (44), Unaoil’s territory manager for Iraq, Stephen Whiteley (64), who was a vice-president at SBM until 2009 before joining Unaoil as its manager for Iraq, and Paul Bond (67) SBM’s sales manager for the Middle East, have all pleaded not guilty.

The trial is expected to last three months.

(Sources: The Guardian, Bloomberg)

By John Lee.

Aviation services group Air Partner has said that it has received increased interest in its “emergency planning” services as a result of recent events in Iraq and Iran.

In a trading update for the year ending 31 January 2020, the company reported:

Heightened tensions in the Middle East have resulted in increased interest in our Emergency Planning product.

“We received several enquiries for Evacuations during and immediately post the events in Iran/Iraq at the beginning of 2020 and we continue to monitor the situation in the region.

(Source: Air Partner)

On Tuesday, the NATO Assistant Secretary General for Operations Dr. John Manza and his delegation met with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Iraq Mr. Abdul Karim Hashim Aboualgus and his team.

The Deputy Minister and Dr. Manza discussed the current state of the NATO Mission in Iraq and cooperation between the Republic of Iraq and NATO.

They agreed that strong cooperation between the Republic of Iraq and NATO is of mutual benefit. NATO remains committed to our training mission in Iraq, which contributes to the fight against terrorism.

(Source: NATO)

From AFP. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq protests swell with youth angry at slow pace of reform

Protests escalated across Iraq’s capital Baghdad as demonstrators sealed off streets with burning tyres in outrage at the government’s slow pace of reform.

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UN Iraq Representative urges renewed push for reform, calls for demonstrations to remain peaceful

With public demonstrations across many parts of Iraq in their fourth month, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, is urging a renewed push for reform and expressing concern about ongoing human rights violations.

She emphasizes the importance of pressing ahead to meet the needs of the Iraqi people: building resilience at the state and societal level is challenging but essential work.

“In recent months, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from all walks of life have taken to the streets to voice their hopes for better times, free from corruption, partisan interests and foreign interference. The killing and injury of peaceful protesters, combined with long years of undelivered promises, have resulted in a major crisis of confidence.”

Two months after the Prime Minister announced his resignation, political leaders remain unable to agree on the way forward. While there was public acknowledgement by all actors that urgent reform is needed, it is now high time to put these words into action and to avoid further derailing of these protests by those pursuing their own objectives, not wishing well for this country and its people.

“Any steps taken so far to address the people’s concerns will remain hollow, if they are not completed. Domestic unity, cohesion and determination are urgently necessary to build resilience against narrow partisan interests, foreign interference and/or criminal elements which actively seek to hinder Iraq’s stability.”

The recent escalation in regional tensions has understandably taken much attention away from urgent unfinished domestic business. However, geopolitical developments must not eclipse the rightful demands of the Iraqi people. This will only further fuel public anger and distrust.

The Special Representative urges the Iraqi authorities to do everything to protect peaceful demonstrators. “Violent suppression of peaceful protesters is intolerable and must be avoided at all costs. Nothing is more damaging than a climate of fear. Accountability and justice for victims is critical to building trust, legitimacy and resilience.

She calls on protesters to remain peaceful, avoiding counterproductive violence and destruction of property.

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

Oil production is reported to have stopped at the 70,000-bpd Al Ahdab field on Sunday, as security guards seeking permanent employment blocked access to the site.

According to Bloomberg, the 50,000-bpd Badra field is also at risk of closure from Monday.

Al Ahdab is developed by China’s CNPC, while Badra is run by a consortium of Gazprom (30%), KOGAS (22.5%), Petronas (15%), TPAO (7.5%).

(Source: Bloomberg)

Denmark Grants Additional USD 4.4 Million for Explosive Hazard Management in Retaken Areas of Iraq

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Iraq welcomes an additional contribution of DKK 29.5 million (over USD 4.4 million) from the Government of Denmark to further enable stabilization and humanitarian efforts through explosive hazard management in retaken areas of Iraq.

With this contribution UNMAS will be able to better support the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of displaced communities, as well as permit rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts to proceed.

UNMAS in Iraq is working closely with the United Nations system and the Government of Iraq to enable humanitarian and stabilization efforts by providing survey and clearance activities of explosive hazards.

As part of its response to the mine action needs of the country, UNMAS also undertakes risk education initiatives targeting vulnerable women, men, and children who live in retaken areas. This ensures that local citizens are informed of the dangers posed by explosive hazards, and are aware of suspicous items.

In addition, UNMAS also works with the Government of Iraq to provide technical support to the Ministry of Interior and national mine action authorities with trainings on Explosive Ordnance Disposal/Improvised Explosive Device Disposal and Explosive Hazard First Responder.

In connection with the Danish support, the Danish Foreign Minister, Jeppe Kofod (pictured), stated:

”Denmark has been a long-time supporter for UNMAS and their important work in Iraq. It is my hope that the additional Danish support will facilitate the return of IDPs to areas previously taken by ISIL and help to stabilise Iraq. Denmark remains committed to the long-term stabilisation efforts in Iraq.”

Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Iraq Senior Programme Manager, said:

“Through its continuous support and close collaboration with UNMAS, the Government of Denmark is helping to reduce the threat posed by explosive hazards, including improvised explosive devices, to the Iraqi people, thereby enhancing community safety and facilitating the return of displaced people to their homes.”

The Government of Denmark is an essential contributor to UNMAS explosive hazard management activities in Iraq. This latest contribution brings to DKK 148 million (more than USD 22 million) the total amount of funds donated since 2016. Additional donations are planned for 2020 and 2021.

(Source: UN)

By Dana Taib Menmy for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Abdul Mahdi urges Kurds to help rid Iraq of US troops

Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi arrived Jan. 11 in Erbil — his first official visit to the Kurdistan region since taking office — to discuss the country’s stability and the need for Kurdistan to cooperate with a push to expel US forces.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted Jan. 8 that Iran will “kick all US forces out of the region” in response to the Jan. 3 killing by US forces of Qasem Soleimani, chief commander of the Quds Force in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units.

Click here to read the full story.

By Amberin Zaman for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraqi Kurdistan president: ‘We are not scared of Iran, but we respect Iran’

The assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in a Jan. 3 drone strike carried out by the United States sent shock waves throughout the region.

Those who argued that Tehran would take its time to retaliate proved wrong. On the night of Jan. 8, Iran launched more than a dozen missiles on Iraqi bases housing US forces. Several struck the Ain al-Assad base west of Baghdad.

Several others landed in an open field near an air base in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Nobody was killed. The attack was seen, however, as a clear message from Tehran about the potential punishment Iraqis would face if they pursue their relations with the United States.

Click here to read the full story.

GardaWorld, a global leader in comprehensive security and risk management, has made its weekly security report available to Iraq Business News readers.

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