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Slow pace of rebuilding increases danger in Iraq

British firms opt to work in safer places as security worsens and lack of water and electricity angers locals

THE BRITISH firm drafted in to provide security for Bechtel has warned contractors that Iraq is a more dangerous place than three months ago.

Olive Security was brought in by the US firm when the latter was appointed prime contractor by development agency USAID to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure.

The war officially ended in May but a growing number of US troops have been killed and several car bombs have gone off in the capital Baghdad recently, the latest being last week's devastating attack on the UN headquarters in the city.

This week Olive marketing director Harry Legge-Bourke said: 'The security situation has deteriorated. The problem is that reconstruction is not happening as quickly as it should be.

'Things won't improve until Iraqis see that basic utilities like electricity and running water are up and running.'

Mr Legge-Bourke said an area to the west of Baghdad was the most dangerous but added that large parts of central and south east Iraq were safer despite the deaths of three British soldiers in Basra over the weekend.

Bechtel has replaced Olive with Florida firm Armor Group but Olive is continuing to provide security in the country mainly for US, Iraqi and Kuwaiti firms.

Mr Legge-Bourke added: 'We have had a lot of calls from British firms and are providing security for a few but a lot are waiting and seeing what happens.'

UK firms expected to be chasing work in Iraq have admitted their interest has cooled because of the security problems.

A source at Northern Irish firm Mivan, which worked in Iraq for 10 years until the start of the first Gulf War in 1991, said: 'We're interested but it's just too dangerous. We're concentrating on other business.'

And Fitzpatrick, which earlier this year linked up with Brown & Root for a job to revamp the US and British military base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, is concentrating on countries it considers to be less dangerous, such as Angola.

Bernard Woodman, the firm's managing director of its international division, said: 'We have got the link with Brown & Root in place but at the moment Iraq is too dangerous.'