Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on all states Thursday to forgive Iraq's foreign debts on the opening day of an international gathering on the country's future.
In his speech opening the conference, al-Maliki also vowed to institute reforms that the United States and Arab governments have repeatedly called for, including bringing more Sunnis into the Iraqi political process.
According to Al-Maliki, forgiving Iraq of its debts was the only way the country could embark on much needed reconstruction projects. "The national unity government has embarked on a national reconstruction program and needs huge finances for these project," he said. "We call on all the friends and brothers participating in this conference to forgive Iraq all its debts in order to enable it to start the projects."
Iraq owes some $50 billion, notably to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia and China, according to Iraqi Finance Minister Bayan Jabr. "We express our thanks and appreciation for all countries which have either canceled or reduced the debts incurred on Iraq," al-Maliki said.
Meanwhile, a rocket attack on Iraq's heavily fortified Green Zone killed four Filipino contractors working for the American government, the American embassy said Thursday.
The embassy said Wednesday's attack left it "with a profound sense of sadness and regret" over the loss of Filipinos who "were integral members of our embassy community."