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Iraqi Group Seeks $100 Million for a National Archive

An Iraqi non-governmental organization is working to archive millions of documents from the regime of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The group says it will ask the United States and other foreign governments for as much as $100 million to build a library in Baghdad.

The Iraq Memory Foundation says it possesses 11 million documents, reports and correspondence from Saddam Hussein's 25-year rule. The group says archiving the records will help honor those who lived under Saddam's regime and will also provide an invaluable chronicle of modern history - including the Iran-Iraq war, the mass murder of Kurds in northern Iraq and the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The president of the Iraqi and U.S.-based foundation, Kanan Makiya, says the documents need careful study and preservation, as well as a permanent haven in Iraq. He is calling for the international community to contribute to building a new Iraqi national archive.

"I shamelessly say to you we intend to be banging on the doors of Congress down the line for that appropriation," said Kanan Makiya. "We intend to go out there to government after government. We seek no less than $100 million for this site."

Mr. Makiya says officials in Baghdad have pledged a one square kilometer area in the center of the Iraqi capital to build the structure. He says the massive complex could eventually house more than 50 million documents, including 37 million still in the possession of the U.S. government.

Mr. Makiya says archiving the documents will serve as a tool of history.

"When that site has been transformed, then it will be possible to gauge the effect on the next generation of Iraqis of what it was like to grow up knowing what was once done in one's own name," he said. "Knowing the terrible things that we human beings are capable of doing to each other in certain circumstances."

The Iraqi Memory Foundation says Baghdad's Mayor, Ala' al-Tamimi, donated the site for the library. Mr. al-Tamimi says the country needs a national archive.

"Iraq and Baghdad face a very important and a very severe moment in history, and for that reason we need to make a place in Baghdad for remembrance," said Ala' al-Tamimi.

The proposed archive would be separate from the Iraqi National Museum, which was heavily damaged and looted during the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq. But Library of Congress staff members say they have been working to help save and restore thousands of pages of Iraqi history housed at the Iraqi museum.