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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China Clears Large Iraqi Debt

BEIJING -- China on Thursday forgave Iraq's debt owed to the Chinese government and pledged to help rebuild the country's war-shattered economy as another suicide bombing in northern Iraq killed at least 18 people.

"China has always been supportive and has participated in the rebuilding of Iraq," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news conference.

"We will reduce or forgive Iraq's debt on a large scale, and help it to train people in the fields of economics, electrical power, diplomacy and management," Qin said, adding that Chinese companies were also willing to participate in the rebuilding.

He did not elaborate on debt figures.

Commerce Minister Bo Xilai later signed an agreement with Iraqi officials to cancel the debt owed the Chinese government. No details were provided.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has just begun a weeklong trip to China.

Talabani will meet China's President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and top legislator Wu Bangguo.

"We hope Iraq can restore stability, safety and development as soon as possible," Qin said.

China donated 50 million yuan ($6.56 million) of aid to Iraq in May, he said.

Meanwhile in Iraq, the death toll rose as a suicide bomber killed at least 18 people when he rammed a truck into a government building in a northern town on Thursday, partially knocking it down and demolishing nearby homes, police said. Women, children and policemen were among the victims and many of them were buried in the rubble, police said.

The attack took place in Sulaiman Bek, a town about 90 kilometers south of the city of Kirkuk that sits on the main road connecting Baghdad to the north.

A police captain in the town, Kudhaie Mohammed, said the truck bomber had driven into a government compound housing the local municipal headquarters and the city council.

He said 18 people had been killed and 76 wounded in the blast. Other police sources in the nearby town of Tuz Khurmato put the toll at 15.

Mechanical diggers were being used to unearth victims from the rubble, police said.

Near Baghdad, thousands of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers pushed ahead with simultaneous offensives.