Russia writes off Iraqi debt, signs bilateral cooperation memora

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Moscow, Feb 11 (UNI) Russia today wrote off 93 per cent of Iraq's 12 billion dolar debt and signed a memorandum of cooperation in the trade, economic, scientific and technical sectors.

The memorandum was signed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari, who is currently on a visit to Moscow.

''This document will consolidate the achieved political understanding,'' Mr Lavrov said.

''The memorandum, which we have just signed, will open doors for Russia for full-fledged participation in all projects and tenders to be held in Iraq,'' Mr Zebari told mediapersons after signing the document.

Earlier, during his meeting with Mr Zebari, Mr Lavrov said Russia was keen on launching joint projects with Iraq in gas, oil and electric energy sector.

''Our energy specialists have long worked in Iraq in difficult conditions, in particular in Baghdad, Basra and Nasiria,'' he said.

He expressed hope that Mr Zebari's visit o Russia will allow enhance trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.

''We are utmost interested in this, and we want to give assistance to friendly Iraq,'' he noted.

On debt settlement, he said the signing of an accord on settlement of Iraqi debt showed a real contribution of Russia to efforts to restore Iraq's economy.

''Russian companies are going to actively participate in this project, but for the successful implementation of plans of economic development of Iraq it is necessary to solve two political problems: to achieve national reconciliation and settle the security issue,'' Mr Lavrov said.

On his part Zebari said during the talks a substantial progress was seen in the bilateral relations.

He said Iraq was happy that Russia took an obligation to settle Iraq's debt to the Paris Club of creditors, adding the situation in the security field is improving and regional cooperation is developing.

After signing the agreement on writing off Iraqi debt, Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told journalists that Moscow will write off 93 per cent of Iraq's 12 billion dollar debt, while 900 million dollars of Iraq's state debt will be restructured for 17 years.

Experts said after years of stagnation, Russian business is now resuming its ties with Iraq and oil companies were the first to return to the country.

Although political instability, lack of strong legislation and a constant threat to security do not make Iraq the best place for doing business, Russian entrepreneurs said the first steps have been made and this progress, however small, should not be lost.

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