Baker holds talks on Iraqi debt in Paris

16 December 2003
US President Bush's personal envoy on Iraqi debt, James Baker, on 16 December met with senior European and Iraqi officials in Paris to discuss the issue. Baker's mission was aimed at convincing European countries, especially those opposed to the US-led invasion, to reduce debts accrued by Saddam Hussein's regime. After the meeting, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that it had been a success. 'Obviously, we all share the same goal... of helping the Iraqi people build a free, peaceful and prosperous future, and restructuring and reducing the debt burden is important to achieving that shared goal,' McClellan said. '[Baker] believes they reached an agreement on the need of the Paris Club to reduce the debt burden and do so in 2004 if possible'. The Paris Club, which includes the US, France, Germany, Russia and Japan, presently holds about $40,000 million of Iraq's debt, which the US estimates at about $120,000 million. Iraq's debt has servicing charges in the region of $7 million-8 million a year

Speaking after the French delegation's meeting with the Iraqi team - led by the rotating head of the interim Governing Council (GC), Abdel Aziz al-Hakim - the French Foreign Affairs Minister, Dominique de Villepin, said: 'France, together with other creditors, believes there could be an agreement in 2004.' Villepin said that, despite France's objection to the war in Iraq, it was ready to play a full role in humanitarian efforts in Iraq.

Bush on 5 December appointed former secretary of state, James Baker, as his personal envoy to oversee talks on Iraq's debt and debt rescheduling. 'This debt endangers Iraq's long-term prospects for political health and economic prosperity - The issue of Iraq's debt must be resolved in a manner that is fair and does not unjustly burden a struggling nation at its moment of hope and promise,' Bush said after appointing Baker (MEED 5:12:03).

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