Reuters cited Iraq Industry Minister Nasser al-Esawi as saying at news conference that the Nibras complex is expected to make the country the largest petrochemical producer in the Middle East.

The complex is expected to complete within five to six years.

"The Nibras complex will be one of the largest (foreign) investments (in Iraq) and the most important in the petrochemical sector in the Middle East," the minister said.

The plant is estimated to produce 1.8 million tons of petrochemical products per year. A Shell spokesman was quoted by Reuters as saying that the cabinet of Iraq had approved the project on 13 January.

The spokesman was quoted by the news agency as saying: "Shell has been working with the Iraqi ministries of industry and minerals and jointly with the ministries of oil and transport to develop a joint investment model for a world-scale petrochemical cracker and derivative complex in the south of Iraq."