CEOL - Iraq, Yugoslavia Start Trade Talk

BAGHDAD, Nov 8, 1999 -- (Reuters) Iraq and Yugoslavia started trade talks to cement economic cooperation between the two countries, the official Iraqi News Agency reported on Sunday.

INA said the talks were chaired by Iraqi Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh and Yugoslav counterpart Borislav Vukovic.

It quoted Saleh as "emphasizing Iraq's firm stance in expanding trade and economic dealings with Yugoslavia and working to increase them in future".

"Iraq is a country open for Yugoslav companies to set up joint projects that serve the interest of both friendly countries," Saleh added.

INA quoted Vukovic as saying "his country is serious about looking into new horizons of cooperation with Iraq."

Earlier, Iraqi newspapers reported that Vukovic had arrived in Baghdad to discuss trade deals under the oil-for-food accord with the United Nations.

Yugoslavia and Iraq enjoy good relations, feeling solidarity in part because they are both internationally isolated and under sanctions for their involvement in wars over the past decade.

Both countries played major roles in the Non-Aligned Movement and many Yugoslav firms were involved in industrial and construction projects in Iraq before its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Earlier this year the Belgrade press said Yugoslavia had signed contracts with Iraq worth $18 million to supply food in exchange for oil.

Iraq strongly condemned the NATO air strike campaign against Yugoslavia over its violent repression of ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo earlier this year.

INA said there had also been a meeting between Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan and Yugoslav deputy Prime Minister Maja Gojkovic, who was in Baghdad for a women's conference.

"Iraq's support for Yugoslavia is a principled attitude based on Iraq's rejection of interference in the internal affairs of countries," INA quoted Ramadan as saying.

"Yugoslavia will continue defending its sovereignty and destiny despite all sacrifices," INA quoted Gojkovic as saying.

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