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Bahraini firms ‘investing big in Iraq’

MANAMA, April 26, 2015

Bahraini businesses are investing millions of dinars in Iraq to support its conflict-hit economy, a senior government official said.

Hotels, furnished apartments and other services for pilgrims visiting religious sites in Najaf and Karbala are the main focus of this investment, Bahrain's Ambassador to Iraq Salah Al Malki told the Gulf Daily News (GDN),our sister publication, in an exclusive interview.

He said the embassy was helping businessmen fill out the necessary permits, as well as advising them on the necessary documents required.

"In recent years, due to an influx of pilgrims going to Iraq, we have seen a surge in the number of Bahraini investment projects around the religious shrines in Najaf and Karbala," he said.

"There are more projects awaiting permits in the hotel industry, which sees huge demand throughout the year with millions of people from across the world keen on making a visit to the holy sites.

"These areas are safe and are regularly visited by Bahrainis."

Sectarian violence in Iraq has been on the rise in recent years, culminating in militants belonging to the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group seizing large swathes of land throughout the country last year.

Major cities such as Tikrit, Fallujah and Mosul have fallen to the group, displacing thousands of Iraqis amid numerous reports of atrocities committed by IS fighters.

The autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, whose fighters have been battling the IS for control in the north-east of the country, offers a relative oasis of calm amid the conflict - centred on its capital Erbil.

Al Malki, who is based in the federal government's capital of Baghdad, told the GDN that some Bahraini investors were even venturing out to this far-flung corner of the country.

"We have top investors in the cafŽ and restaurants industry opening shops in Erbil," he said.

"There are even plans from the Kurdish side to have more Bahrainis doing business there."

A medical mission will also be established to serve the estimated 100,000 pilgrims who visit Iraq from Bahrain each year, the ambassador said.

Around 70 per cent of these go to commemorate Arabaeen, which marks 40 days since the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussain and takes place in early December this year.

Currently, Bahrain has just one medical mission to accompany pilgrims and this only serves those going on Haj to Mecca.

"We have already directed Bahraini pilgrimage caravans coming to Karbala and Najaf to have a nurse or doctor accompanying them," said Al Malki.

"But that is not enough during the Arabaeen season, so we have worked with the Foreign and Health ministries in Bahrain to establish a medical mission that will provide services during that period.

"We have received approval, but details have yet to be finalised and we don't know if it will be a team flown in from Bahrain or Iraqi-hired medics, or even a mixture."

Setting up such a mission, whether permanent or temporary, would help prevent avoidable deaths from sickness and other complications, the ambassador said.

"The Health Ministry has even agreed to handle the medicines and equipment, which shows a commitment to ensure that this project becomes a reality," he said.

Health Minister Sadiq Al Shehabi confirmed that negotiations with the Foreign Ministry over the medical mission proposal are at an "advanced stage".

However, several details still need to be finalised, he told the GDN. – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | Ambassador | Najaf |

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