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Sun 14 Aug 2011 07:06 PM

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Iraq may turn to UN in row over Kuwait port plan

Iraqi PM says action planned if new port threatens to harm Iraq's maritime activities

Iraq may turn to UN in row over Kuwait port plan
Kuwaits disputed container port is scheduled for completion in 2016. (Image for illustration purposes only)

Iraq will send a committee to Kuwait on Sunday to probe the construction of a port there after threatening to take the case to the United Nations if the harbour violates its maritime rights, Al-Iraqiya television said.

The committee will conduct a field study for the Iraqi Cabinet on the potential effects of the Mubarak al-Kabir Port which Kuwait is building on Boubyan Island in the Persian Gulf, it said, citing the head of the panel, Thamir Ghadhban.

Iraq may resort to the UN and prosecute Kuwait if the new port threatens to harm Iraqi maritime activities, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in an interview with Al Sumeria television.

Iraq has officially requested that its neighbor halts construction until the end of the investigation, he said. Kuwait has still not issued an official response, al-Maliki said.

The Mubarak al-Kabir port has exacerbated tensions which persist since Iraq under former President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Iraq still pays five percent of its oil revenue to Kuwait as compensation, and Kuwait continues to demand payments on debt and more reparations.

Iraq sent a delegation to Kuwait in May to try to dissuade it from building the port, saying the project may threaten the operations of its own planned harbor in the southern region of Basra.

Iraq has said the additional traffic may hamper access to its ports for the largest vessels. Kuwait said it welcomes any further Iraqi visits and can show the port won’t violate Iraq’s rights or obstruct its maritime activity.

Iraq has yet to implement plans announced a few years ago to build the Basra port, which is intended to spur economic activity and become a gateway for Gulf products going to Turkey and Europe.

Iraq is eager to boost energy exports to pay for reconstruction after decades of conflict and sanctions that left much of the country’s infrastructure destroyed.

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