The Gulf state of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have agreed to waive most of Iraq’s outstanding debts.
Abu Dhabi's crown prince Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayid al-Nahayah told James Baker the UAE will write off the bulk of the debt, reported the official WAM news agency on Tuesday.
The debt is estimated at some $4 billion.
The UAE is prepared to begin negotiations, he told US President George Bush's special envoy for Iraq's debt.
Baker earlier secured a similar promise from Qatar, but officials there were mum on the size of the debt.
“Qatar will waive the bulk of Iraq’s debt and will, at the right time, consider forgiving all of it,” its foreign ministry spokesman said.
But the foreign ministry spokesman did not specify the amount of Iraq’s outstanding debt, or how much of it is being forgiven.
The White House said Baker would be visiting the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Baker – a former US Secretary of State - will also meet Iraqi officials to discuss the war-ravaged country’s crippling debt burden that is estimated to be about $120 billion.
Earlier this month, Kuwait's foreign minister said Baker was not expected to include the issue of billions of dollars in war reparations Baghdad owes the emirate for its 1990 invasion.
"Kuwait looks at the issue from two aspects ... Iraq's debts and reparations for damages during the invasion which are governed by UN Security Council resolutions," Shaikh Muhammad al-Sabah said earlier this month.
Iraqi forces were ousted from
Kuwait by US-led forces
"I don't think the second will be raised" in talks with Baker, he said.
Kuwait has filed compensation claims worth $170 billion
to the UN Compensation Commission, which has already approved some $37 billion to the emirate and actually paid about $9 billion.
Iraq's army invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and occupied it for
seven months before being evicted by a US-led coalition in the 1991 Gulf War.
Unofficial estimates put the amount of Iraq's debt to Kuwait at around $15 billion without interest.
Most of the Kuwaiti money was given to Baghdad in the 1980s when Iraq was at war with neighbouring Iran.