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Between high unemployment and high risk

THE WORLD

Hundreds at a Baghdad job fair seek work with U.S.-linked firms. The positions promise good pay, isolation and peril.

February 25, 2007|Tina Susman | Times Staff Writer

"You need the people who have fled to come back and fuel the country," he said. He estimated that only 10% of potential employees had the English-speaking skills the firm needed.

Throughout the morning and into midafternoon, job-seekers snaked from the conference room door through a hallway, and down the Rashid's marble steps to a lobby decorated with huge potted plants. Outside, more waited to get in. Like nightclub patrons on a busy Saturday night, only a few were let through the hotel's main door at a time, as others trickled out.

By the end of the day, Carr said, at least 300 resumes had been collected and scores of educated Iraqis had made contact with potential employers.

"Our goal is to get everyone a job. That's not possible," he said, "but this is at least opening a connection for them."

One of those who seemed optimistic about finding work was Ghaith Harith, a towering former project manager whose fluency in English and experience with U.S. firms clearly impressed one interviewer. After an initial conversation with the employer that lasted far longer than most, Harith was directed to the company's human resources manager.

He smiled broadly as he walked away, but when asked whether he would tell anyone if he got a job with the firm, Harith replied, "Impossible. No way."

susman@latimes.com

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