Iraq's Odious Debts

Time not right to discuss Iraq debt – Kuwait speaker

April 10, 2004

Kuwait’s Speaker of Parliament said in remarks published on Saturday the time was not right to discuss reducing billions of dollars in Iraqi debts or Gulf War reparations sought from its former occupier.

“I do not think the time is appropriate to discuss reduction of debts and compensations, or even eliminating them because the situation in Iraq is currently at best untenable,” Jassem al-Kharafi told the al-Masaref (Banks) magazine in an interview.

In January, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah said Kuwait was ready to discuss substantially cutting Iraqi debt, estimated at up to $16 billion, but this needs parliament’s approval. However, he said that the matter of billions of dollars more in reparations dating from Iraq’s 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait is not negotiable.

Kharafi said the appropriate time for any talks with Iraq would be “when a stable government is in place, fully recognised by the international community and when it is in a position to sign international accords and to show it can abide by its international obligations”.

The Speaker, in the remarks carried by newspapers and state news agency KUNA, added: “Kuwait has not received any official request from Iraq about the debts and compensations.”

Kuwaiti parliamentarians reacted angrily in September to a U.S. suggestion that Kuwait drop demands for reparations, and parliament’s Legal Committee approved a draft law last year banning the government from forgoing the reparations.

Iraqi is estimated to owe Gulf Arab states $45 billion, mostly extended during its 1980-1988 war with Iran. Baghdad insists the money from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states was given as grants.

Kuwait was the launch pad for the U.S.-led war last year in Iraq which removed Saddam Hussein, whose forces invaded Kuwait in 1990. 

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