Kuwait, Iraq hold talks over controversial port

Tuesday 16 Aug 2011

An Iraqi technical delegation has held talks in Kuwait over a seaport Baghdad claims would strangle its narrow shipping lanes in the Gulf

The Kuwaiti side presented illustrations and studies on Mubarak Al-Kabir port and its impact on shipping in Khour Abdullah waterway, said an official quoted by the KUNA news agency.

Khour Abdullah is a narrow waterway that separates Iraqi and Kuwaiti shores off Bubiyan Island where the megaport is being built, and leads to Iraq's Umm Qasr port and other smaller ports.

On Monday, the Iraqi delegation visited the site of the port, some 120 km (75 miles) north of Kuwait City and is due to hold more meetings with a regional environment organisation and other technical bodies, the ministry said.

The official expressed "satisfaction" over the talks and expected the outcome will serve the interests of the two neighbours.

Kuwait began construction on the multi-billion-dollar container port in 2007 but Baghdad only raised objections to the port in May this year, a month after Kuwait's emir laid the foundation stone.

An Iraqi delegation visited Kuwait City in May and held talks with officials, who assured them the port will not affect navigation in the strategic area at the tip of the Gulf.

Iraq had officially asked Kuwait to suspend construction until the controversy had been settled. The emirate rejected the call by its former occupier, insisting the port will not affect Iraq.

Earlier this week, Kuwait beefed up security around the project following fresh threats by Iraqi militant groups and MP Kadhim al-Shammari who said his comments were misunderstood.

Last week, Kuwait's foreign ministry Undersecretary Khaled al-Jarallah said threats by Iraqi militants would not deter the oil-rich emirate from completing the construction of the port.

The Gulf is the main export outlet for Iraqi oil, which accounts for the lion's share of the country's revenues, and Baghdad has started major work to modernise its outdated ports and plans to build a new one.

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