China is to supply Iraq with equipment to strengthen the country’s ailing power network. The system has fallen into disrepair during eight and a half years of UN sanctions.

The UN Sanctions Committee, which vets all imports to Iraq, has approved 17 contracts worth $81 million. The largest, for $74 million, is for six gas turbines from China. These will replace old equipment at the Mullan Abdullah power plant north of Baghdad. The first will be commissioned in July, the UN said.

Since December 1996, Iraq has been permitted to sell oil for humanitarian supplies, which include supplies for the power sector. At least $575 million has been allocated for Iraq’s power industry, but by October 1998, only $44 million worth of equipment had arrived.

Iraq’s power plants are only producing at half capacity because of obsolete equipment and a lack of spares. Most parts of the country suffer power cuts for 12 hours each day.