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Iraqi Delegation Says Russia Offers To Wipe Out 65 Percent Of Debt

Moscow, 22 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Members of an official Iraqi delegation visiting Moscow say Russia has offered to write off 65 percent of Iraq's estimated $8 billion debt. However, the offer is reportedly conditional on approval by the Paris Club of creditor nations.

One of the officials, Iraqi Governing Council member Samir Shakir Mahmud, was quoted by Reuters as saying Russian President Vladimir Putin made the offer at talks in the Russian capital today.

There is no confirmation of that from the Russian government's side.

In remarks during the meeting, Putin said it is possible that Russian investment in Iraq could reach $4 billion in the near future. "Russian companies are ready to work actively in Iraq," Putin said. "According to preliminary estimates, investments in Iraq by Russian companies can reach $4 billion in the very near future."

Russia Energy Minister Igor Yusufov said the Iraqi delegation has also proposed resuming talks on suspended oil-field contracts that Russia signed with Saddam Hussein's government.