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Interview: Iraq hopes to start new chapter after Kuwait conference

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The Iraqi government hopes to start a new chapter in its economy and the life of the Iraqi people after the upcoming Kuwait's international conference for reconstruction of Iraq, which follows the full defeat of Islamic State (IS) group in the country.

"In my view, the doors will open up to a new life for Iraq, that would compensate the Iraqi citizen after the great suffering from the war against Daesh (IS group)," Mustafa al-Hiti, head of the Iraqi fund for reconstruction of affected areas by anti-IS military operations, told Xinhua in an interview.

Hiti said that the Iraqi government would unveil more than 150 investment projects in different fields, in addition to offering a number of investment projects by the private sector.

"We will offer some 27 investment opportunities in the fields of housing, food and pharmaceutical industries, entertainment and energy," Hiti added.

The largest sector affected by the war against IS is the housing sector, which needs 18 billion dollars as there is about 138,000 affected housing units, more than 50 percent completely damaged at the time that some 2.5 million Iraqis are still displaced inside the country, he said.

Civil society organizations will also take part in the conference, according to Hiti, adding that reconstruction is not a process of building walls and infrastructure but rather, it has human dimension that must be taken into consideration.

Iraqi estimations said that reconstruction of the country would need a total of 88 billion dollars, according to Hiti, who wondered "can this conference provide such an amount? We hope to get the minimum and I will be optimistic if we get 20 billion dollars."

However, Hiti believes that Iraqis must start comprehensive economic reforms that will include enactment of new laws and empowering supremacy of the law in the nation.

"The truth is that we need to get back to ourselves to build our country. We have to start with economic reforms, including bridging the gap between law and the rule of law on the ground," Hiti said.

"We have to talk about what the investor's guarantees are. Hence, before the international community can help us, we must talk about rebuilding our own state system," he added.

"I think the coming course of history in Iraq will start again from the gate of this conference (Kuwait international conference) if we are serious in rebuilding the Iraqi state," Hiti said.

Hiti revealed that Iraq would propose forming a high-level body to follow up the post-conference period for ensuring transparency of how the funds granted to Iraq are managed.

"The proposed high-level body could include for example, the prime minister with the relevant ministries, in addition to representatives of the World Bank, the United Nations and the Iraqi Reconstruction Fund," he said.

Earlier, the International Organization for Migration said that by the end of 2017, more than 3.2 million Iraqis had returned home, but 2.6 million remain displaced.

Nearly one third are reported to have returned to houses that have been significantly or completely damaged, it said.

The conference is due to be held in Kuwait on Feb. 12 to Feb. 14, as donor countries and organizations are expected to announce financial contributions at the meeting.

On Dec. 9, 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of Iraqi forces, officially declared full liberation of Iraq from IS militants after Iraqi forces recaptured all the areas seized by the extremist IS group since 2014.

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