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Iraqi president says he'll press for dropping multibillion Saddam-era debts

Iraqi president says he'll press for dropping multibillion Saddam-era debts at UN meeting

BAGHDAD — Iraq's president said Tuesday he will press his government's case before the United Nations this week to have the country's remaining multibillion dollar Saddam Hussein-era debts dropped.

President Jalal Talabani said he will make the appeal at the General Assembly meeting in New York, which starts Wednesday. With its economy hit hard by falling oil prices, Iraq has been seeking the cancellation of some $25 billion in U.N.-mandated reparations for Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The government has also asked other Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, to cancel other remaining debts.

"We will demand an end to the unjust compensation imposed on Iraq," Talabani told reporters before leaving for New York.

In July, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged the Security Council's most powerful members to cancel all sanctions and more than 70 resolutions adopted after the Kuwait invasion. At the time, al-Maliki said Iraq is now a democracy that poses no threat to international peace and security.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon responded by suggesting that Kuwait and Iraq discuss alternatives, including the possibility of converting outstanding war reparations into investments to help Iraq's reconstruction. Kuwait has so far resisted the idea.

Talabani will also ask the U.N. to help Iraq in prosecuting those accused of bombings and other attacks inside the country.

"I will ask the U.N. to consider terrorism as a crime against humanity and demand that the world body help us," Talabani said.

Al-Maliki has been calling for the U.N. to investigate last month's bombings at government ministries in Baghdad and set up a tribunal to prosecute the suspects. Al-Maliki says the attacks, which killed around 100 people, were planned and financed by Saddam loyalists living in Syria.

The accusation has sparked a serious diplomatic dispute with Syria, which is refusing to hand over the suspects and says Iraq has not provided proof of their involvement.

While in the United States, Talabani will also have surgery on his left knee at the Mayo Clinic, according to a statement from his political party. It did not give any other details on his health.

In August 2008, Talabani had surgery on a heart valve at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

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