April 13, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Finance officials from the seven richest industrial countries agreed Saturday to support a new U.N. Security Council resolution as part of a global effort to rebuild Iraq and promised to begin talks on reducing Iraq's massive foreign debt burden.
The launching of talks on debt relief represented a victory for the Bush administration, which is pressing Russia, France and Germany to forgive a part of the debt, estimated at between $60-billion and $100-billion, so a new Iraq government is not burdened with debts run up during Saddam Hussein's regime.
The administration, however, backed down from its insistence that there was no need for a new U.N. resolution before the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank could get involved in rebuilding Iraq.
Treasury Secretary John Snow, who two days ago had pronounced himself "baffled" at this view, described Saturday's discussions as "excellent" and said he was satisfied with the commitment of all parties to quickly speed financial assistance to Iraq.
The talks among the Group of Seven wealthy countries, led by Snow and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, were a prelude to talks at the spring meetings of the 184-nation IMF and World Bank. The G-7 nations are the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Canada and Italy.
At the IMF discussions later Saturday, Snow said it was urgent for the "international community to cooperate in providing humanitarian relief to the Iraqi people and laying the groundwork for reconstruction and economic recovery."
There was no talk of dollar amounts, but the rebuilding needs are expected to be massive with estimates running from $20-billion per year for the first several years to $600-billion over a decade.
Snow told reporters he believed he had assurances that the IMF and World Bank would send its staffers into Iraq as soon as it is safe to begin determining the critical needs and start the flow of billions of dollars in loans.
Canadian Finance Minister John Manley said there was still disagreement on whether a U.N. Security Council vote would be needed for the IMF and World Bank to begin work in the country. "There is not clarity in the legal view on this," he told reporters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, wrapping up two days of talks in St. Petersburg, Russia, made it clear Saturday that they believe the United Nations, not the United States, should play the key role in rebuilding Iraq.
But the three leaders, who led the opposition to the U.S.-led war, indicated it was time to mend ties with the United States.
"We can rebuild our unity around the values that all great democracies share. This spirit of solidarity and collective responsibility should emerge strengthened from this crisis," Chirac said.
Putin said the crisis highlighted the need for modernization of the United Nations and the entire system of international law.
"If we had effective mechanisms for solving crisis situations, we would be able to more effectively solve the most acute global problems, and, what's especially important, do so without acting beyond the law," Putin said.