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China to reduce and forgive Iraqi debts

Updated: 2007-05-03 18:40
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Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi announced in Egypt on Thursday that the Chinese government is ready to substantially reduce and forgive the debts owed by Iraq while giving a grant of 50 million yuan of RMB (about 6.5 million U.S. dollars) to Iraq in 2007.

The grant will be used to provide assistance in Iraq's public health and education, Yang said at a ministerial meeting of the International Compact with Iraq (ICI) opened in the day at this Egyptian Red Sea resort.

"The Chinese government is ready to substantially reduce and forgive the debts owed by Iraq. In particular, it will forgive all the debts owed by the Iraqi government," Yang said.

China has taken note of Iraq's request for debt reduction and forgiveness according to the arrangement of the Paris club and is ready to resolve the issue through continued friendly consultation with Iraq, Yang said.

Addressing the meeting, Yang also said China supported the ICI which he said serves as a blueprint for Iraq's future development and reconstruction and defines its partnership with the international community.

On how to implement the ICI, Yang noted that the international community needs to increase consultation and coordination in assisting Iraq to ensure assistance in a coordinated way.

China supports the UN in continuing to play a leading role in this effort, said he.

Yang also said there should be a proper balance among the various areas covered by the ICI, such as the efforts to promote dialogue and reconciliation among Iraqi groups, human rights and the rule of law, economic and social reform, among others.

He called on the international community to deliver on their promises to assist Iraqi's reconstruction and help Iraq develop its capacity for self development.

Yang also called for strengthening supervision, saying a fair and transparent environment will encourage all parties to participate in Iraq's reconstruction and that China supports conducting regular progress evaluation on Iraqi's reconstruction and the providing of international assistance.

Yang, who arrived at this Red Sea resort on Wednesday afternoon, was on his first international mission after being named as Chinese foreign minister on April 27, replacing retired Li Zhaoxing.

The ICI meeting, with attendance of some 60 nations and 12 regional and international organizations, was the largest international meeting on Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition forces seized Baghdad in April of 2003.

The ICI was initially launched on July 28, 2006, in the hope of creating "a permanent partnership between Iraq and the international community" to help Iraq in its reconstruction efforts and to pursue political, economic and social development over the next five years.

The initiative, with strong support from the United States, looks like a type of five-year plan for Iraq, yet it is also based on economic, political and security commitments by the Iraqi government in the next five years.

The ICI is supposed to be chaired jointly by Iraq and the UN, with the support of the World Bank.

The one-day ICI meeting gathered senior diplomats from Iraq's six neighbors -- Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- plus Bahrain, Egypt, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the UN.

Also attending are senior diplomats from the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, Britain, Russia and France -- and members of the G-8, including Germany, Canada, Japan and Italy.

Following the ICI meeting is an extended ministerial meeting of Iraq's neighbors on Friday, with participation of the permanent members of the UN Security Council and representatives of the G8 countries.