China to substantially forgive Iraq debt

By Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-22 06:47

President Hu Jintao greets his Iraqi counterpart Jalal Talabani at a welcome ceremony in front of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday.Wu Zhiyi  More

China will substantially forgive debt owed by Iraq and also help with the reconstruction of the war-torn country.

That was the pledge made by President Hu Jintao when he met his Iraqi counterpart Jalal Talabani in Beijing yesterday.

No specific figure was available but Talabani was quoted as saying ahead of the trip that he would like to have $8 billion in debt cancelled.

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Hu said China respects the rights and choices of the Iraqi people, and will continue to support and participate in the reconstruction of Iraq. The government will encourage domestic enterprises to invest in Iraq and help with training of personnel.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said last month that China will grant 50 million yuan ($6.5 million) to Iraq this year to help with public health and education programs.

Hu lauded Talabani's visit - the first by an Iraqi president since the two nations established diplomatic relations in 1958 - and said the six-day trip shows that Iraq's new government "pays great attention to relations with China".

Talabani said Iraq treasures the traditional friendship between the two countries.

Baghdad welcomes Chinese firms to join other international firms in bidding for oil-exploration contracts, and hopes to revive a frozen oil deal after a domestic oil law is adopted, the Iraqi ambassador to China said earlier.

He was referring to a 1997 deal struck by China National Petroleum Corp to develop the billion-barrel Al-Ahdab field. The $1.2 billion contract was signed by the company and the government of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The company began renegotiating the Al-Ahdab deal in October and the project could be reactivated if Iraq's parliament passes the hotly debated oil law next month.

Hu and Talabani witnessed the signing of four agreements covering foreign affairs, the economy, technology and education.

Talabani, who is leading a 36-strong delegation representing six Iraqi ministries, including finance, interior and oil, said the presence of key ministers signaled Iraq's desire to boost relations.

"In Iraq, we look on the achievements of China as an achievement for people seeking freedom and independence throughout the world," Talabani said.

The Iraqi leader, who was scheduled to meet with Premier Wen Jiabao and top legislator Wu Bangguo, will also visit the ancient city of Xi'an and Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province.

Agencies contributed to the story

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