The UK contractor Amec has finally been awarded work in Iraq, in the form of $154m (£81m) of electricity-related orders, after its US partner Fluor won a prime $1.5bn contract from the US Army.
The orders, although relatively small, come as a boost to UK industry which has so far failed to win any substantial reconstruction contracts in Iraq.
The situation has already led to concern in Whitehall. Two British government ministers, Brian Wilson and Mike O'Brien, are due in Washington later this week to lobby the US administration for future contracts. A series of prime contracts worth some $19bn are due to be awarded next month by the US-funded Project Management Office.
A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said: "They [the ministers] will be pressing the case for the involvement of British firms in the reconstruction of Iraq as we enter a key contracting period."
The spokesman said dozens of British companies had won work in Iraq but added that the DTI was "surprised and disappointed" that British businesses had lost out last month on two major oilfield reconstruction contracts worth a total of $2bn.
The larger of these deals went to Halliburton, the oil services company with close ties to the Bush administration.
Amec, which is in a joint venture with Fluor, had bid unsuccessfully for the oil work. The British engineer is using the joint venture, which is 51 per cent owned by Fluor, to bid for seven contracts that are due to be awarded early next month by the Project Management Office, worth a total of $4bn.
Only companies that are majority owned by an American entity can bid for prime contracts. But a number of British companies are involved in joint ventures in the hope of winning some of this work.