In what is being billed as a fresh financial start for Iraq, a group of creditors has agreed to cancel 80 per cent of the country’s debt. That means that instead of owing around 30 billion euros, Baghdad now has to pay back around 6 billion. The agreement only covers governments in the Paris Club, an umbrella group for 19 of the world’s richest countries. But there is hope it will pave the way for bilateral deals with other creditors, like Saudi Arabia.
While the interim government has hailed the agreement as ‘historic’, Baghdad has far more pressing matters to deal with as elections are now fixed for January 30th. Campaigning is already underway, but some party activists are not convinced the country is ready.
Abir al-Sahlani from the National Coalition Party told reporters: “My opinion about elections is that they should be postponed because neither the security situation nor the Iraqi voters is prepared for what is coming. I do not think that we have enough information. I do not thinks that the security is good.”
Despite almost daily attacks on the US-led coalition and Iraqi government forces some voters are more optimistic. “The elections will be held as scheduled. God willing, and be to the benefit of the Iraqi people and will help calm down the situation,” said Imri Saleem, interviewed in a cafe. A Saddam-era food rationing list is being used as the basis for voter registration. The election will appoint a 275 member National Assembly, who will then choose a president and two deputies.