US special envoy James Baker will travel to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Saudi Arabia this week to discuss the reduction of Iraq's $120 billion external debt. Baker will also meet with US-backed Iraqi leaders during his stay in the region.
Over the past five weeks, the United States has ardently campaigned for the reduction of Iraq’s foreign debt in major European and Asian creditor nations. Baker has already received pledges from Germany, France and Japan to relieve the Arab state of its heavy debt burden.
The US envoy hopes to get a similar response from Gulf leaders, to which Iraq owes an estimated $45-55 billion. Iraq insists the funds were given as grants prior to the 1991 Gulf War.
Baker is likely to be confronted with reluctance on the part of Arab governments due to the escalation of violence in Iraq. For many in the Arab world, the US-led authority's presence in the country is enough to discourage cooperation. Last month, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal told SPA that the Kingdom would not discuss loan-write offs unless talks were conducted with a totally sovereign Iraqi government. — (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )