First Published: 2004-12-22

Iraqna accuses Iraq government of impeding work

Orascom boss alleges Iraqi government is hobbling work of its mobile phone operator to favour Kuwaiti rival.


Middle East Online

Unlawful practices to elbow out Iraqna

CAIRO - The head of Egypt's telecom giant Orascom has accused the Baghdad government of impeding the work of Iraqna, its subsidiary which operates the largest mobile phone network in Iraq, in an interview published Wednesday.

Iraqi security forces have been harassing Iraqna staff and the authorities hobbling the firm's operations to favour a Kuwaiti rival, Naguib Sawiris told the London-based Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

"We have filed a complaint to Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi," he said, protesting over the arrest last week of two Iraqna employees accused of assisting insurgents.

Sawiris said that Iraqi national guardsmen had raided a building, destroyed and stole equipment.

Iraqna employees "are under psychological stress ... They are abducted by gangs, accused of being agents, abducted by the so-called resistance and after all that national guard forces come and arrest individuals," he said.

Iraqna operates the mobile network for the Baghdad area. It has been accused by the government of helping insurgents and by the rebels of assisting the US military.

In September, insurgents captured a dozen Iraqna employees but later released them.

"It is clear that there are competitors. There is a leading political figure around whom a lot of controversy has been raised in Iraq and who is a main shareholder in a Kuwaiti firm," Sawiris said.

"It seems he has been using his influence to place obstacles for the company. As for those speaking about poor service, it is clear that there is jamming on the network ...

"We found out that the Iraqi telecommunications operator gave our frequency to the Kuwaiti company ... Despite denials by US forces, we have proved that they jam the network."

Sawiris did not name the Iraqi official or the Kuwaiti company allegedly trying to elbow out Iraqna.

The mobile network in southern Iraq is operated by Atheer, a branch of the Kuwaiti firm MTC, itself one of Orascom's main challengers on the booming Arab telecom market.


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