Officials from the San Francisco-based firm also said progress was continuing in rehabilitating the Umm Qasr seaport, a top priority for relief agencies to bring food and grain into the country. Dredge work was expected to begin May 7. Survey work also continues to allow officials to evaluate current port conditions and determine locations and depths of dredging activities, says Bechtel spokesman Howard N. Menaker. Workers are trying to identify locations of both blocked channels and submerged materials in advance of dredging activities, he adds.

Crews headed by Cliff Mumm, Bechtel's program director, and Terry Valenzano, deputy program director, are also evaluating the physical and mechanical condition of grain elevators located at the port as well as power needs to restart operations.

"We're very much in the mobilization and evaluation and fact-finding phase," says Menaker. As of May 2, Bechtel National had deployed about 20 employees in the region with more expected to arrive shortly.

For now, long-standing U.S. sanctions against Iraq are not having any "practical impact on our contractors," says Ellen Yount, director of communications for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which awarded Bechtel the $680-million capital construction contract to rebuild Iraq April 17.

The work so far falls under the umbrella of humanitarian relief, including the establishment of offices and field bases to oversee rebuilding. The White House is expected to take action shortly on the sanctions. The United Nations is also expected to soon lift its own restrictions against Iraq. However, if the sanctions remain in place too much longer, there could be difficulty in bringing necessary construction equipment into the country to perform the rebuilding, according to sources.

In keeping its commitment to open subcontracting for all globally based companies, USAID is holding a series of sector conferences in Washington. The sessions, which are Web broadcast, provide information on reconstruction opportunities in particular arenas. A conference on public health was set to be held May 8 and a session on seaport and airport administration is expected to convene May 13. Details of these sessions are available at www.usaid.gov/iraq/. Bechtel also plans contractor conferences later this month for firms interested in subcontracting. Sessions are planned in the U.S., the U.K. and possibly in Kuwait.

echtel National Inc. continues to make progress in awarding subcontracts to aid in the rebuilding of Iraq. At ENR press time May 6, at least 13 subcontracts were involved in some phase of the process and most were competitively bid.