Dubai's Emaar to develop housing projects in Iraq

DUBAI, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Dubai's Emaar Properties will set up a new joint venture with the Iraqi government to develop housing in the war-torn country, Iraq's construction and housing minister said on Wednesday.

Muhammed al-Darraji gave no financial terms but said the government will give free land to the developer to build projects.

Iraq, which needs about 2 million new housing units, has a $2 billion budget for infrastructure and housing spending in 2013, the minister said.

"We are building 65,000 homes but whatever we build from our budget is not enough to meet out housing needs," al-Darraji said on the sidelines of a real estate conference in Dubai. "We will sign an agreement with Emaar to develop housing in Iraq ... a joint venture between Emaar and the government."

Nine years after the United States invaded Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, there are signs that foreign investment in the country is finally building momentum. The potential of Iraq's oil wealth means some foreign investors are willing to accept some risk.

The Iraqi ministry is also in talks with other Dubai developers to build projects in Iraq, said Thir Aldabagh, an advisor at Iraq's construction and housing ministry.

Emaar has skirted clear of its home market in the aftermath of a property slump that saw prices slump by more than 60 percent from 2008 peaks.

On Wednesday, the developer launched the Boulevardi project in Turkey, a mixed-use development made up of more than 1,000 luxury homes and a 190-room five-star hotel.

Emaar also said on Tuesday it plans to build a retail and entertainment complex outside in Cairo in an $820-million tie-up with UAE property firm Al-Futtaim Group.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Amran Abocar)

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