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Anger over Iraq contracts list

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PARIS, France (CNN) -- France and Germany have reacted angrily to news that they are not on a U.S. list of countries eligible to compete for contracts for Iraqi reconstruction.

The U.S. Defense Department has published a list of countries eligible to compete for $18.6 billion worth of contracts on its Web site.

Countries that either participated in the Coalition effort in the war or supported it -- including Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy, Poland, Turkey and Japan -- are on the list.

Noticeably absent from the list are France, Germany, Russia and China -- countries that strongly opposed the U.S.-led war.

France is studying the legality of the decision to bar its participation, the French Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

"We're studying the compatibility of these decisions with the international laws of competition, together with our concerned partners, especially the European Union and the European Commission," a spokesman said.

A German government spokesman said it would be unacceptable for the United States to bar firms from countries which opposed the war in Iraq from competing for prime contracts to rebuild the country.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's chief spokesman Bela Anda said: "That would not be acceptable for the German government. And it wouldn't be in line with the spirit of looking to the future together and not into the past."

He declined at a news conference to comment on what action the government would take.

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said the list was restricted due to security concerns.

He said while "international support and cooperation are necessary for progress in Iraq," it is "in the public interest" to limit the countries that can compete for the contracts.

"It is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States to limit competition for the prime contracts of these procurements to companies from the United States, Iraq, coalition partners and force contributing nations," the memo said.


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