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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 April, 2003, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
G7 backs UN postwar Iraq role

By Steve Schifferes
BBC News Online at the IMF/World Bank meeting in Washington

The leading industrial countries have called for a further UN resolution and a multilateral effort to rebuild Iraq.

Bomb damage
Getting Iraq back on its feet will be a major task
The United States has accepted the need for a further UN resolution to pave the way for a joint effort for the reconstruction of Iraq.

The statement by the seven finance ministers "recognises the need for a multilateral effort to help Iraq" and states their support for a further UN Security Council resolution.

The call was echoed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in the light of the urgent need to "restore security, relieve human suffering and promote economic growth".

"The IMF and World Bank stand ready to play their normal role in Iraq's redevelopment at the appropriate time," said a statement issued after a meeting of their international monetary and financial committee.

The UK Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who chairs the committee, said the unanimous consensus demonstrated that the spirit of international cooperation on a basis of shared values was still alive.

The decision appears to clear the way for the IMF and World Bank to assess the size of the challenge they will face in Iraq.

No deal on debt

US Treasury Secretary John Snow, who hosted the G7 meeting, said that the way was now clear for the two institutions to provide technical assistance and expertise.

Treasury officials later said that there was no change of policy regarding the UN, citing the text of the joint Belfast statement of President George W Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr Snow appeared to have had less success in persuading his fellow finance ministers to forgive the debts owed by the Saddam Hussein regime to Western nations.

On Thursday US Under-Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz had said it would be helpful if Germany, France, and Russia would ignore these debt payments.

But the G7 statement merely says that "it is important to address the debt issue", which will now be passed on to the informal group of official creditors known as the Paris club.

German Finance Minister Hans Eichel made it clear that Germany will be insisting on debt repayment and restructuring, not forgiveness.

"We do not only expect to get our money, we will get our money back," Mr Eichel told a press conference.

Iraq owes official creditors around $80bn, plus $40bn in interest and perhaps another $50bn to $60bn in unpaid contracts with private companies. It also has some $200bn in reparations claims from the Gulf War.

Currency chaos

The US Treasury was also vague on how it plans to help Iraq stabilise its currency - a mission which could also now fall to the IMF.

Mr Snow said that it would be up to the Iraqi Interim Authority, when it was created, to decide on the future shape of Iraq's currency.

But in the meantime, he acknowledged that three separate currencies - the Saddam dinar, the Swiss dinar, and the US dollar - were circulating in the country.

The US Treasury has a team of 15 officials in Kuwait who are advising the US civil administration team, and may soon go to Baghdad.

But officials acknowledged they had no idea whether they would find a functioning central bank or any Iraqi government officials they could work with.

The G7 nations are the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and Canada. Russia also takes part on an informal basis.

The BBC's Matt Prodger
"Some members still fear the US will try to use the IMF and the World Bank to lead reconstruction"

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