US Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed confidence that a new Iraqi government will recognize Iraq's debts to Russia in full. Baghdad's foreign debt totaled USD 100 billion to 120 billion, including 8 billion owed to Russia, Mr. Powell said in a live interview on the Echo of Moscow radio. Mr. Powell added that he had not discussed this issue at his meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, but addressed it earlier at talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
Mr. Powell also made it clear that the Bush administration would not object to the presence of Russian peacekeepers in Iraq. According to him, zones of peacekeeping contingents are now taking shape in Iraq, for which different nations will be responsible, for example, Americans, Britons and Poles. At the same time, Mr. Powell said that the decision to send Russian peacekeepers to Iraq should be made not by diplomats but by generals.
In addition, the Secretary of State confirmed Washington's intention to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a limit on US-Russian trade introduced to protest at the Soviet-era's restriction on Jewish emigration. He noted that US President George Bush was for the lifting of this amendment.
Mr. Powell said this amendment to the Trade Act of 1974 was 'a relic of the past' and stressed that the White House was determined to abandon it. At the same time, he noted the complexity of this issue, as the final verdict should be delivered by the US Congress.