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Bush Names James Baker to Reduce Iraqi Debt

President Bush has named former Secretary of State James Baker as his personal envoy to reduce Iraqi debt. The appointment followed a request from Iraq's U.S.-appointed governing council.

President Bush says he is asking Mr. Baker to work with foreign governments, international organizations and Iraqis to restructure and reduce the country's $120 billion debt.

In a written statement, Mr. Bush said the future of the Iraqi people should not be mortgaged to the enormous burden of debt used to enrich former President Saddam Hussein. He says the debt endangers long-term prospects for political health and economic prosperity.

The president says Iraq's debt must be resolved in a manner that is fair and does not unjustly burden what he calls a "struggling nation at its moment of hope and promise."

U.S. forces invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam earlier this year. The Bush administration now administers the country in cooperation with a U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, which White House officials say asked the president to name a special representative for debt.

Mr. Baker will report directly to the president in this unpaid position. He is a long-time friend of the Bush family, who helped represent the president during the legal challenges to ballot counting in Florida that gave Mr. Bush the electoral votes he needed to win the presidency.