GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) _ A Michigan telecommunications company has established three centers in Baghdad, Iraq, where Iraqis can make affordable telephone calls and send uncensored e-mail to the rest of the world.

VoEx Inc. plans to have 20 such communications centers up and running in the greater Baghdad area within two months, executive vice president Michael Vorce said Wednesday. The company's long-range plans include setting up cell phone and wireless networking systems in Iraq.

``The response has been excellent,'' Vorce said. ``We've had a lot of positive feedback. We've been flooded with e-mails and phone calls from Iraqis and Arabic-speaking people from around the world, thanking us.''

The war almost destroyed Iraq's outdated, state-monitored communication network.

Enter Haydar Haba, VoEx's chief executive. A naturalized American born in Iraq, some friends and associates from his native country contacted him soon after the war ended and expressed a need for telephone and Internet services.

His privately held company, which was formed in 2001 and is based in Grand Rapids, Mich., is primarily a wholesaler of international telecommunications services. VoEx extended its global-communication infrastructure into Iraq with help from its in-country partner, The Albanna Group, which acquired the necessary equipment and secured retail space for the centers.

``Though setting up consumer retail communication centers is outside our normal course of business, we are technologically capable of providing this service,'' Haba said. ``My partners and I agreed that investing the necessary capital, time and risk to provide these crucial services was important and would benefit Iraqis and Americans around the world.''

The company is working with Cisco Systems Inc. to route phone calls through the Internet to the recipient's computer, telephone or fax machine.

VoEx's first Baghdad center opened for business in early July. Because it uses satellite technology to transmit and receive e-mail and Internet-based phone calls and faxes, it took ``only four or five days'' to set up once the electronic equipment arrived, he said.

Depending on such variables as the type of service and the time of day it is used, a customer pays between 25 cents and $1 per minute.

Iraqis manage each center, and VoEx plans to keep them open as long as there is a need, Vorce said.

``As long as we can fulfill a need, we hope that will be indefinite,'' he said.


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