June 21, 2009
Baghdad – Iraq will continue to press its neighbours and the world to forgive billions of dollars in debt accrued by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, an Iraqi lawmaker said Sunday.
‘The Ministry of Finance and the parliament will move to close the file of Iraq’s national debt completely by asking countries to cancel 100 per cent of it,’ Iraqi legislator Ahmed al-Alwani told Baghdad’s al-Sabbah newspaper in remarks published Sunday.
By the time the US-led invasion toppled Saddam’s government in 2003, the former president had racked up an estimated 300 billion dollars in national debt, including hundreds of billions in reparations to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for damages caused in the first Gulf War and unpaid contracts.
Iraq now pays 5 per cent of the proceeds from its oil exports to make those reparation payments. Al-Sabbah said the Iraqi government would campaign in the coming days and weeks to get those payments reduced.
Al-Alwani argued that the Iraq should not be required to pay for the former regime’s ‘odious’ debts.
Moreover, he said, cancelling Iraq’s debt would provide countries with ‘long-term benefit, by offering them increased investment opportunities once the shackles on Iraq’s political and economic development are removed.’
In 2008, the Paris Club, a group of rich countries, wrote off the last of the roughly 40 billion dollars Iraq owed its members.
Al-Awani called on Arab states that ‘continue to arrogantly demand repayment’ to do the same.
At a March summit in Qatar, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki found little support from members of the Arab League when he asked them to cancel debts Iraq owed them for the sake of the future of the country and the region.