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France ready to part cancel Iraqi debt

PARIS, Dec 15 (AFP) – France said on Monday it may write off part of Iraq’s debt if other creditor nations agree, in a move that could significantly smooth prickly relations with the United States.

“France believes an agreement could take effect from 2004, if the conditions are right, within the framework of the Paris Club and in liaison with other creditors,” Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin told journalists.

“France could then envisage debt cancellations that are appropriate and compatible with Iraq’s financing capability,” he said.

De Villepin was speaking one day after US forces in Iraq confirmed they had arrested deposed president Saddam Hussein and just minutes after a meeting in Paris with members of the US-installed interim Iraqi Governing Council.

The suggestion from France also came just one day before President Jacques Chirac was to meet special US envoy James Baker, who is tasked with urging European nations to forgive Iraq’s debt, which is estimated at USD 120 billion (about EUR 100 billion).

Baker, a close friend to US President George W. Bush’s family and a former US secretary of state, was dispatched to also try to explain a Pentagon directive that excludes France and other anti-war nations from winning US-funded reconstruction contracts in Iraq.

 © AFP

                                                                Subject: France news