News from last week, but still sadly relevant:
A U.S.-based construction company has pulled out of its contract to rebuild Iraq's transportation systems, deciding it was too dangerous to stay, a spokesman for the U.S.-led reconstruction effort said Wednesday.
Contrack International Inc. of Arlington, Va., led a coalition of firms working on a $325 million contract to rebuild Iraq's roads, bridges and railways. Contrack withdrew from that contract last month after a surge in attacks on reconstruction efforts, said Lt. Col. Eric Schnaible of the Pentagon's Project and Contract Office in Baghdad.
"It's hard to do construction in a place where people are shooting at you or intimidating your work force," Schnaible said in a telephone interview. "It's a challenge across the country."
Security concerns have been a major reason for the slow pace of reconstruction which has frustrated Iraqi and U.S. officials alike. Of the $18.4 billion in Iraqi reconstruction money approved by Congress more than a year ago, less than $2 billion has been spent.
Meanwhile, reports the UK Guardian,
Iraq's largest mainstream Sunni Muslim party pulled out of the election race yesterday, saying the violence plaguing areas north and west of Baghdad made a "free and fair vote" on January 30 impossible.
"We are withdrawing," said Mohsen Abdel Hamid, leader of the Iraqi Islamic party, as he announced the latest setback to plans to stage the country's first credible elections.
"We are not calling for a boycott, but we said we would take part only if certain conditions had been met and they have not," he said.