November 22, 2018 / 3:59 PM / 23 days ago

UPDATE 1-Iraq to launch reconstruction agency, president says

(Adds details)

By Davide Barbuscia

ROME, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Iraq plans to launch a reconstruction agency to focus on projects such as a deep water port and a rail network, Iraq’s president said on Thursday, as the country seeks to put years of turmoil behind it.

Over the past year Iraq has emerged from a devastating conflict with hardline militants who seized almost a third of the country.

It declared victory in December 2017 over the Islamic State armed group, having taken back all the territory captured by the ultra hardline militants in 2014 and 2015.

Barham Salih told an international conference in Rome that defeating Daesh, an acronym for the Islamic state, was “a monumental challenge and an immense success for Iraqi army forces.”

Iraq plans to work with foreign entities, including sovereign wealth funds, on several infrastructure projects, Salih said, but he pointed to corruption and abuse of public funds as problems that undermine reconstruction efforts.

“Iraqi and foreign private sector companies as well as international financial institutions, donor countries and sovereign wealth funds, will be invited to invest in these (infrastructure) projects”, Salih said.

The Iraqi parliament elected Barham Salih, a Kurdish politician, in October. The presidency in Iraq is largely a ceremonial position, but the vote for Salih was an important step toward forming a new government.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Wednesday he would go to parliament next week to get his full cabinet approved.

Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Janet Lawrence, William Maclean

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