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Mon 16 Sep 2013 01:47 PM

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Iraq safer than Turkey and Lebanon, says top minister

More people killed by terrorism in Rio De Janeiro than in Iraq, says housing minister

Iraq safer than Turkey and Lebanon, says top minister
Iraq flag, Iraqi flag

Iraq’s security situation is more stable than both Turkey and Lebanon, a top minister in the country said, just hours after a fresh wave of car bombs killed more than 40 people.

Speaking at a conference in Dubai on Monday, minister of housing and construction Mohamed Al Dharaji blamed “media propaganda” and “interfering from other countries” as he sought to drum up investment in the country.

“Iraq is more stable than Syria, Lebanon and even Turkey,” Al Dharaji claimed. “A lot of media propaganda is trying to show Iraq as unstable.”

On Sunday, more than 40 people – predominantly in Shia Muslim areas – were killed after two car bombs exploded in the city of Hilla, with other attacks hitting Baghdad, Basra and Karbala. According to the United Nations, more than 5,000 people have been killed in Iraq this year amid sectarian violence, with 800 of these deaths in August alone.

“Terrorist casualties are less than Lagos or Rio De Janeiro,” Al Dharaji added. “The number of people who die from cancer in Iraq is much higher than the people who die from car bombs.”

Al Dharaji’s ministry is leading reconstruction efforts in the war-torn country following the withdrawal of US forces at the end of 2011. Iraq needs 2.5m new housing units between now and 2016, according to Al Dharaji, while the central government is also looking to remove 269 slums across the country.

He said that his ministry is planning on initiating 12 new residential projects every year and will spend $2bn on building 60,000 low-cost housing units between now and 2017. Al Dharaji said that about 75,000 homes were currently being built across Iraq, with another 36,000 set to start construction within the next four years.

The government also operates a $300m housing fund, which will be increased to $1bn by 2016, which can loan up to 50 percent of a project’s value to outside developers.

Iraq’s government also needs to rebuild 7,000km of roads and highway infrastructure which were damaged during US occupation, which Al Dharaji said he expected to cost billions of dollars.

According to management consultancy McKinsey & Co, Iraq spent $9.1bn on infrastructure last year, with this figure set to rise to $15.3bn last year.

In order to fund this the country is seeking to increase its crude oil output from its current level of about 3.5m barrels per day to 6m barrels by 2016.