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Nokia has secured a deal for building a GSM mobile telephone network in the south of Iraq, Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat reports.

Iraq's interim administration has divided the country into northern, central, and southern areas, each of which are primarily getting one mobile operator.

Last autumn a consortium led by the Kuwait-based mobile operator MTC won a licence to provide GSM service in southern Iraq, including Basra. Nokia will deliver the network to Atheer Telecom, which is owned by the Kuwaiti mobile operator.

The mobile network in the north has been divided between Siemens (Germany) and China's Huawei, and the southern core network in Iraq will be built by Nokia and its Kuwaiti partner FCCI.

Nokia's network will extend to the outskirts of Baghdad, but not to Iraq's capital. France's Alcatel and Motorola have been named as potential suppliers for the central zone which is 'owned' by Orascom Telecom Iraq Corporation.

Service provider Iraqna, part of Orascom last week launched a pre-paid service in the capital. Customers are required to pay a deposit of $US 650, far beyond the means of most in the country.

Mobile phones were strictly banned under Saddam Hussein's dictatorial regime. ®

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