Bush names Baker envoy on Iraqi debt

Friday, December 5th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush on Friday named former Secretary of State James A. Baker III his personal envoy to Iraq on the issue of that country's $120 billion debt.

``Secretary Baker will report directly to me and will lead an effort to work with the world's governments at the highest levels with international organizations and with the Iraqis in seeking the restructuring and reduction of Iraq's official debt,'' Bush said in a statement read by White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

Iraq's huge debt, with annual servicing charges of $7 billion to $8 billion, is seen as a major impediment to reconstruction.

Bush said he made the appointment in response to a request by the Iraqi Governing Council.

``The future of the Iraqi people should not be mortgaged to the enormous burden of debt incurred to enrich Saddam Hussein's regime,'' Bush said.

``This debt endangers Iraq's long-term prospects for political health and economic prosperity,'' he said. ``The issue of Iraq's debt must be resolved in a manner that is fair and does not unjustly burden a struggling nation at its moment of hope and promise.''

Baker, a Houston attorney, is a longtime Bush family friend who has held several high government posts.

In the closely fought 2000 election, Baker headed up Bush's strategy team during the recount battle in Florida, which eventually ended up in the Supreme Court and delivered the presidency to Bush.

He oversaw the presidential campaigns of Bush's father in 1980, 1988 and 1992.

He served as President Reagan's first chief of staff, and as treasury secretary in Reagan's second term.

He left his post as secretary of state to serve as campaign manager in the first President Bush's unsuccessful 1992 re-election bid.