Iraq's Odious Debts

Velchev’s U.S. trip reaps rewards

Sofia Echo, Bulgaria

July 4, 2003

FINANCE Minister Milen Velchev, returning this past weekend from a working visit to the United States, said he had managed to negotiate some benefits for Bulgaria.

At a series of meetings with US government officials and members of the congress and of the senate, Velchev negotiated the reopening of the bank accounts of Bulgarian companies in US banks, in which there were assets from trade relations with Iraq before the UN embargo of 1991.

According to Velchev the sum amounts to $25 million.

The US administration has also agreed to provide $130 million for covering the damages suffered by Bulgarian companies during the war against Iraq.

The compensation for its largest part will most probably consist of Iraqi petrol.

He said that the major part of the expenses of the Bulgarian battalion in Iraq would be covered by the US side.

“Those are serious expenses,” Velchev said.

According to Finance Ministry estimates, the Bulgarian battalion in Iraq would cost the state budget between $50 million and $70 million a year.

“The direct expenses on the troops, the salaries, cannot be covered by the US,” Velchev said.

On his return, Velchev expressed his optimism about the outcome of the debate on the US military aid for Bulgaria and said the US administration had showed willingness to overcome the differences in the positions of the two countries.

During his visit Velchev also had talks regarding the repayment of the Iraqi debt to Bulgaria.

He said the chances of getting at least a part of it back were good, but this could happen only at a later stage.

“Our current strategy is not rush things too much,” Velchev said.

According to him, the US administration had shown understanding that the repayment of the Iraqi debt to Bulgaria was of great importance and it would not insist on its full cancellation.

During his visit to the US, Velchev also discussed a future agreement on the avoiding of double taxation.

According to him, however, the process of preparing such an agreement would be long and complicated as the US administration had very high and complex requirements on the matter.


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