INTERVIEW: Envoy Calls on Japan Firms to Invest in Iraq

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Tokyo, March 20 (Jiji Press)--Iraqi Ambassador to Japan Abdul Kareem Kaab has called on Japanese companies to make direct investments in Iraq, which is still undergoing reconstruction 20 years after the Iraq war.

Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by a U.S.-led coalition to end the rule of then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Iraqis "had no freedom, dignity and human rights" under Hussein's "absolute, brutal dictatorship," Kaab said in a recent interview with Jiji Press.

Thanks to postwar democratization efforts, "people can (now) express their ideology and protest on the street," the ambassador said, adding that such protests can lead to a change of government, which is a "new thing" in Iraq.

While hailing the end of Hussein's rule, Kaab said that "many mistakes" were made during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, such as the dissolution of Iraqi security forces.

Iraq became "very weak," inviting foreign intervention and the emergence of terrorist groups, Kaab said.

"We have structural and practical barriers that need to be overcome" to realize a fully functioning democracy, he went on to say. "We are responsible for changing the system to a better one."

Kaab expressed "sincere gratitude" for Japan's support for Iraq's postwar reconstruction and stabilization. He added, however, "Iraqis are looking for more than that."

He called on Japan to lift its advisories for its citizens to evacuate from or not to travel to Iraq, saying that the advisories are hampering the development of Japan-Iraq relations and interactions between the people of the two countries.

"Iraq is safe," the ambassador stressed. "It is not logical" to consider more than half of Iraq in a situation like Ukraine, which is currently facing Russian aggression, he said.

Kaab urged Japanese companies to invest in Iraq directly, not via the official development assistance program or the Japan International Cooperation Agency, saying that many industries in the country have huge potential, including the energy and construction sectors.

He warned that Japan is lagging behind China and South Korea in investing in Iraq.

According to Kaab, he was jailed three times under Hussein's rule for participating in antigovernment protests. "I never slept well from 1979 till when I fled (to Jordan) in 1994, using a false passport," he said.

He said that he considers his life now as "extra time given by God," as many of his friends were killed during the Hussein era.

The collapse of the Hussein regime was something "wanted by all Iraqis" and was "definitely good," the ambassador said.

Still, he pointed out that using force against a sovereign state in a way that violates the U.N. Charter is generally wrong as it delivers "many bad consequences." Many conflicts happening around the world are proof, he said.