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US Envoy Holds Talks in Europe on Iraq Debt Relief - 2003-12-16

U.S. special envoy James Baker is in France at the start of regional tour aimed at urging European countries to provide debt relief for Iraq.

Mr. Baker met in Paris Tuesday with members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council ahead of planned talks with French President Jacques Chirac.

The American envoy later will travel to Germany, Italy and Russia.

On Monday, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said France is willing to write-off some of Iraq's debt and reach a Paris Club agreement on restructuring its debt burden in line with Iraq's "financial capacities."

In Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said Iraq is not a poor country, but added Russia is willing to consider restructuring Iraq's debt within the framework of the Paris Club.

Iraq's debt is estimated to total $120 billion. Of that, about one-third is owed to Paris Club nations, while the rest is owed to other countries and private creditors.