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Iraq could join WTO by end of 2011-US official

* Iraqi ministries eye WTO membership for higher tariffs

* WTO entry seen as encouraging foreign investment, trade

BAGHDAD, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Iraq could get membership in the World Trade Organization by end-2011 if it actively pursues accession, which could help the country's rebuilding efforts by boosting trade and investment, a U.S. official said.

Iraq began the accession process in 2004 but has taken only the initial steps needed for membership. Iraq's benefits might also be limited since Iran, one of its main trading partners, is not a member.

But some Iraqi ministries, like the finance ministry, are keen on accession because it would boost trade, and revenues from tariffs, said Larry Morgan, director of international trade at the U.S. Agency for International Development's Tijara project, which advises Iraq's trade ministry on WTO issues.

"As it stands, it's been a very slow process, but they are not that far off from the trajectory," said Morgan. "I'd say if they apply reasonable due diligence, then they could join by the end of 2011. That would be the earliest they could do it."

WTO accession stands to increase Iraq's access to imported goods, introduce standardisation and quality control of goods and pave the way for less chaotic and bureaucratic customs practices, Morgan said.

"It would allow Iraqi customs to join the modern world," he said. "For Iraqi businessmen or women, this country has one of the worst records of time required to import or export goods."

Foreign businesses would have a greater sense of protection before venturing into the Iraqi market, aiding Iraq's efforts to develop tourism and financial services industries, Morgan said.

Analysts however caution that Iraq is unlikely to diversify its economy beyond oil -- which already accounts for 95 percent of government revenues -- and that red tape and political bickering have thrown many project timetables off track. (Reporting by Deepa Babington; Editing by Michael Christie and Jon Loades-Carter)

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