Clyde & Co has sent a partner on a secret trade mission to Iraq to attract clients from among the country's major industries

Clydes hopes to have sufficient contacts to be able to capitalise, in the event of a sanctions breakthrough, on this extremely lucrative but largely untapped market.

It is keen to develop relationships with Iraqi oil, gas, sulphur and agricultural producers, and envisages acting for suppliers and transport companies associated with Iraq's large-scale construction of ornate buildings.

The firm has also hired an Iraqi and Lebanese-qualified lawyer, who is expected to be a useful conduit between Clydes and Iraqi lawyers.

Clydes was advised against visiting Iraqi industrialists by the Foreign Office, although it had DTI approval to do so. Instead, the partner travelled there officially on behalf of a Lebanese client, which had won a contract to build five civilian hospitals in Iraq as part of the UN's oil-for-food programme. Unofficially, the partner took the opportunity to meet with major Iraqi industrialists and local lawyers.

A source at Clydes said: “If there was a sanctions breakthrough or an improvement in the business climate, then we'd be looking to help guide Western companies wanting to work with Iraqi industrialists and assist them in drawing up contracts and so on.”