Iraq Asks For Debt Forgiveness

STOCKHOLM -- Iraq pressed its creditors to cancel about $60 billion in debts at an international conference on Thursday, but two of its biggest lenders, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, sent only junior representatives to hear the call.

The Iraqi delegation, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, basked in praise from international leaders lauding the country's economic and political development.

Maliki said the large debts -- some of which date back almost 30 years -- along with compensation payments for Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, were shackling the economy.

Iraq is obliged to set aside 5 percent of its oil revenues as compensation payments, amounting to $3.5 billion this year, according to the Iraqi government.

"We are looking forward to the brother countries writing off its [Iraq's] debts, which are a burden on the Iraqi government," he said, a pointed reference to Gulf states such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which are Iraq's biggest Arab creditors.

Opening the conference, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Iraq for "notable progress" in meeting economic, political and security targets set at last year's conference.

"If we had to use one word to describe the situation in Iraq today, I would choose ... hope," he said. "There is new hope that the people and government of Iraq are overcoming daunting challenges and working together to rebuild their country."