Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:15 pm (KSA) 09:15 am (GMT)

UAE cancels Iraq's debt of $7 billion

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum with Iraqi PM Maliki (L)
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed al-Maktoum with Iraqi PM Maliki (L)

The United Arab Emirates said on Sunday it was waiving Iraq's debt of nearly seven billion dollars and also named an envoy to Baghdad during a visit by Iraq's premier to the oil-rich Gulf state.

President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan told Nouri al-Maliki the UAE has "decided to write off all debts owed by Iraq totaling four billion dollars... plus accrued interest," the official WAM news agency said.

An Emirati official, confirming the decision, told AFP the debt and interest amounted to just under seven billion dollars.

The UAE, a close U.S. ally, also named its current envoy to India as ambassador in Baghdad, an Emirati official said.

Washington has been pushing its Arab allies to send ambassadors to Baghdad and ease Iraqi debt to help anchor volatile post-Saddam Hussein Iraq in the Arab world.

"The UAE cabinet, at its meeting today, approved the appointment of its current ambassador to India, Abdullah Ibrahim al-Shehhi, as its ambassador to Iraq," the official told AFP, requesting anonymity.

"The Iraqi government has already approved the nomination."

The appointment came a month after UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan became the first high-ranking official from an Arab state in the Gulf to visit Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and said Abu Dhabi would soon name an ambassador to Baghdad.

The announcement came shortly after Maliki arrived on a two-day visit.

The UAE withdrew its most senior diplomat -- a charge d'affaires -- from Baghdad in May 2006 after another diplomat was kidnapped by Islamist militants and held for two weeks.

The UAE hopes that its decision to cancel Iraq's debt "will help alleviate the economic burdens endured by the brotherly Iraqi people," and is meant to "help the Iraqi government implement reconstruction plans and rehabilitate institutions and facilities," WAM quoted the UAE president as telling Maliki.

Abu Dhabi will not hesitate to "provide all kinds of financial and moral aid" to Iraq, he said.

Sheikh Khalifa added that Abu Dhabi's decision to reopen its embassy in Baghdad underlined its belief in "the importance of Iraq's interaction with its Arab environment."

An Iraqi government spokesman said on Thursday that Jordan's King Abdullah II will visit Iraq next week in what would be the first trip by an Arab head of state since the invasion.

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