UK contractor Costain has sent two directors to Kuwait to lobby US companies Haliburton and Bechtel for subcontract work in Iraq
The meeting with Bechtel suggests that Costain is the frontrunner to pick up work from the US contractor's £430m civilian infrastructure deal. Bechtel is due to hold a conference in London next Friday to invite British firms to register an interest in the work.

A spokesperson for Costain confirmed: "We have two senior directors in Kuwait talking to several American contractors." The directors flew out on Monday and are expected to return by Sunday.

Australian contractor Multiplex has also held talks with Bechtel and Haliburton using staff at its office in Dubai. Graeme Robson, director and commercial manager at the Dubai office, would not confirm that the talks had taken place.

He noted that reconstruction in Iraq was unlikely to take place until the end of the year at the earliest. Robson said: "Bechtel has indicated that it will give a lot of the work to Iraqi firms. But do they pay them in US dollars? You could be looking at six months to a year until the currency issue is resolved."