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Did this trip in February 1999 happen? 05 November 1998 IMF to send mission to sanctions-hit Iraq For the first time in almost 20 years, the two are talking again LONDON - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) planned to send a mission to Iraq early next year to pave the way for normal ties with sanctions-hit Baghdad, a top IMF official said in remarks published yesterday. Paul Chabrier, the IMF's Middle East director, said he would head the delegation to the Iraqi capital next February in response to an official invitation. He said Iraqi officials told him they were seeking IMF support in the rebuilding of their administrative system, to set up a statistical base, help with budget planning and create a foreign exchange market. The last consultations the Washington-based IMF had with Iraq were at the start of the 1980s, he said. Iraq is reeling under strict economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations (UN) since its invasion of neighbouring Kuwait in 1990. "We were invited to resume relations with Iraq and the invitation came from officials. I do not know what we will find in Baghdad … Despite the existence of tension and friction between Iraq and the UN, I think we are moving towards a form of normalisation (of ties) with Baghdad," he said. Iraq is one of the IMF's original members, joining in December 1945. Its ties with the fund have frayed, though, and Baghdad owed the lending agency almost $40m on April 30 1997. Earlier this year, some US lawmakers sought to force Baghdad out of the IMF before approving US funding to the agency. Chabrier said he had been willing to meet an earlier invitation to visit Iraq last February, but the mission was postponed after deterioration of relations with the UN over arms inspections. Washington threatened to launch military strikes against Iraq if it continued to deny UN weapons inspectors access to all sites in the country, but the crisis was averted by a deal sealed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Baghdad. Chabrier's remarks came as a new crisis brewed after Iraq decided last week to suspend co-operation with the inspectors searching for banned weapons. Baghdad newspapers said yesterday Iraq would not be cowed. Chabrier said the IMF was interested also in upgrading its contacts with another sanctions-hit Middle Eastern nation, Libya, and would be keeping a keen eye on Iran to see if the government of reformist President Mohammad Khatami will embrace economic policies that the fund could approve of. An IMF mission would leave soon for Libya, Chabrier said. He said the country did not need loans, but could benefit from IMF help in building a statistical base to adopt sound economic policies. "I see encouraging signs for a substantial improvement in Libya's foreseen economic future," he said. Chabrier said Tehran's good relations with the IMF had increased Iran's ability to set up statistical bases, but the country's economic health was far from ideal. "Iran's situation is more complicated due to the unsuitable external atmosphere after the deterioration of crude oil prices and the emergence of pressure on the balance of payments," he said. He said although Iran's external debts were not large compared with the size of its economy, they were a burden because of their short-term nature. - Reuter. Mark Parkinson Cornwall -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi