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China to Write Off Iraqi Debts
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Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi announced yesterday that the Chinese government is ready to substantially reduce and forgive the debts owed by Iraq and provide a grant of 50 million yuan (US$6.5 million).


The grant will be used to help public health and education, Yang said at a ministerial meeting of the International Compact with Iraq (ICI), which took place yesterday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. 


"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, without specifying the amount.


China has taken note of Iraq's request for debt reduction and forgiveness according to the arrangements of the Paris Club of major creditor nations and is ready to resolve the issue through continued friendly consultation with Iraq, according to Yang.


Yang said China supports 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 work together to ensure assistance comes in a coordinated way.


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


Yang also said there should be a proper balance among the various areas covered by the ICI, such as 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 reconstruction and help Iraq improve its capacity for self-development.


Yang is on his first international mission after being named foreign minister on April 27, replacing the retired Li Zhaoxing.


The ICI meeting, which is being attended by 60 nations and 12 regional and international organizations, is the largest international meeting on Iraq since the US-led coalition forces seized Baghdad in April 2003.


Egypt and three East European countries also agreed to waive debts owed by Iraq to support Iraqi institutions in exchange for political and economic reforms by the Baghdad government.


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 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 and the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the US, the UK, Russia and France -- and members of the G8, including Germany, Canada, Japan and Italy.


(China Daily May 4, 2007)

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