In the first full-scale government inspection since a Ground Self-Defense Force unit withdrew in 2006, Japanese officials recently visited Basra in southern Iraq to pave the way for yen-loan-financed reconstruction projects.
The move, welcomed by Iraq, is part of an attempt by Japan to catch up with other countries in getting its private sector involved in on-the-ground reconstruction support for the country, which is seeing gradual improvement in its security situation.
"We've been waiting for you for 30 years," Abdul-Hadi Saad, general deputy of the State Company of Fertilizers, said as the company welcomed a total of six officials from the Japanese Embassy and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
During the two-day visit from Monday, the six met Iraqi officials of the fertilizer plant in Khor Al-Zubair and the South Refineries Company in Basra as well as authorities of Umm Qasr port. Japanese companies have been involved in the construction of the three areas.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. was involved in building the Basra facility, which started to operate in 1979.
But war and economic sanctions imposed on Iraq have made it difficult for the plant to import replacement parts from Japan and led the workers there to carefully maintain the equipment to avoid using poor-quality components instead.