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Iraq Undergoes Currency Conversion - 2003-10-11

For Iraqi citizens one of the most noticeable changes since the ouster of former leader Saddam Hussein will begin this coming Wednesday. That's when a currency conversation to the new Iraqi dinar will begin.

After more than a year of planning by the United States, Iraqis will soon be introduced to a new currency that does not contain the image of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

On October 15, 240 banks throughout Iraq will be begin a three-month process to swap out old Iraqi dinars for the new currency, in what has been described as a major logistical event.

Some 2,300 tons of new Iraqi currency, printed at facilities around the world, have been flown into Iraq on 27 Boeing 747 jetliners.

A week ago, banks began receiving the new currency, which comes in six denominations, and next Wednesday the distribution process will begin.

On January 15 the old currency that prominently displays the image of Saddam Hussein will no longer be valid.

According to the under-secretary of the Treasury, John Taylor, planning for the currency conversion and the revamping of Iraq's banking industry began well before the war to oust Saddam Hussein.

On Friday, Mr. Taylor said the backbone of economic recovery in Iraq would depend on a restructured and modernized banking industry.

But according to Iraqi Governing Council member Samir Shattar Mahmud el-Sumaidy, while restructuring financial institutions will be critical to Iraq's economic success, the issues of security and unemployment, he says, must first be addressed.

"If we get the security sorted out, then we are well on our way of getting the economy moving. Already, the services are beginning to flow, but there's far, far too much unemployment. Unemployment means dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction means instability. So, everything is linked to each other," he said.

Security around the country's financial institutions has tightened. No less than 19 police officers have been assigned to each of the country's banks, and more will be sent to the larger institutions.

Police will be armed with machine guns and radios to ensure contact with the local police stations.

With images of Saddam Hussein all but gone in Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority has made getting rid of his image on Iraqi currency a priority.