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U.A.E. to Increase Investment in Iraqi Kurdistan, Official Says

June 15 (Bloomberg) -- The United Arab Emirates will double its current investment in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region to $6 billion by 2013, said Abdullah bin Ahmed al-Saleh, director general in the emirates’ Ministry of Foreign Trade.

Kurdistan is a important partner for the U.A.E., which is keen to “develop and upgrade” ties between them, al-Saleh told delegates today at the Kurdish Regional Government’s two-day trade and investment conference in London. Iraq ranks 11th among his country’s trading partners, al-Saleh said.

A delegation of Kurdish cabinet ministers and business owners accompanied the northern Iraqi region’s prime minister, Barham Salih, to the conference with a message that Kurdistan presents an ideal investment opportunity.

More than 1,200 foreign companies work in Iraqi Kurdistan’s non-oil sectors, including banking, housing and agriculture, with projects totaling $3 billion over the past 3 1/2 years, the regional government said.

HSBC Holdings Plc’s Iraqi unit plans to open a branch in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah and in Zarko, near the region’s border with Turkey, Michael Hodges, the London-based bank’s business development director for the Middle East and North Africa, told the conference.

“It is very likely that the first HSBC-branded bank will open in Kurdistan in a year or so,” Hodges said.

The Kurdish-controlled northern provinces of Sulaymaniyah, Erbil and Dohuk have been ruled by elected officials since 1992. Ethnic Kurds represent 15 to 20 percent of Iraq’s population of 30 million.

To contact the reporters on this story: Caroline Alexander in London at calexander1@bloomberg.net; Grant Smith in London at gsmith52@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net; Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net.

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