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Iraqis Call for Debt Write-Off

Jubilee Iraq
October 22nd, 2003

As big powers gather, report indicates 'unanimous' Iraqi opposition to payment of Saddam's 'odious' debts.

Wednesday 22nd October: The day before the world's most powerful nations meet in Madrid to discuss Iraq's future, a report from the NGO Jubilee Iraq [1] indicates that Iraqis themselves unanimously oppose the payment of Saddam's 'odious' debts and most also reject war reparations.

The report 'Iraqi views on debt and reparations', available on-line at www.jubileeiraq.org, is the result of a three week consultation with Iraqis by Jubilee Iraq, which met with representatives of over 20 different NGOs, parties and religious groups in Iraq, as well as ministers from the interim government.

Saddam's regime left debts and war reparations payments of around $200bn. A May 2003 report by Oxfam stated that 'most, perhaps all' of Iraq's debt was 'odious' in the sense that it was lent to a regime with no popular mandate, for purposes that did not benefit ordinary Iraqis, by creditors who knew that the money was being used to finance war and human rights abuses [2]. Even the conservative business press now agrees: "There is an overwhelming case, both in terms of economic expediency and justice, for writing off most of Iraq's debts, and doing so fast" (The Economist, 18 October 2003)

Dr. Hajim Al Hassani, representative of the Iraqi Islamic Party (one of the parties on the Governing Council) said: "Iraq is not responsible for any debts which supported the regime's war machine. They are asking us to pay for the knives they gave Saddam to slaughter us." Iraqis demand cancellation of odious debt, and will not accept a settlement dictated by the Paris Club cartel of creditors which ignores the question of debt legitimacy and is conditional on Iraq submitting to IMF economic policies.

The report's author Justin Alexander said 'Iraqis identify the debt as one of the most critical issues facing them. Failure to achieve a just resolution would prevent economic revival and could even threaten the country's political stability. Iraqis insist that they are not responsible for Saddam's debts and do not need debt 'forgiveness', rather it is the creditors who financed Saddam's reign of terror should be seeking forgiveness from Iraqis. As one Iraqi explained to me 'When Saddam executed people, he used to charge their families for the bullets used - this is precisely what the creditor countries who financed Saddam are asking of Iraqis today.''

Notes [1] Jubilee Iraq is a network of NGOs and individuals (business people, lawyers, economists, politicians, aid workers - Iraqis and citizens in creditor countries) working to ensure that the Iraqi people are not unjustly forced to pay Saddam's bills. www.jubileeiraq.org
[2] A fresh start for Iraq: www.oxfam.org/eng/policy_pape_iraq_freshstart.htm

Jubilee Iraq
Contact: Justin Alexander on +44 7813 137171