BAGHDAD, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- The United States has joined an effort to block claims against Iraq, which Iraqi officials argue could shut down the fledgling democracy.
U.S. President George Bush has signaled U.S. backing of extending legal measures enacted by the U.N. Security Council five years ago to protect Iraq's coffers and has indicated support for Iraq's request to renew the protections for another year, The New York Times reported Thursday.
"With oil revenues generating more than 95 percent of the government's resources, these claims could affect reconstruction and economic transformation taking place in Iraq and consequently constitute a grave threat to Iraq's stability and security, and therefore to international peace and security," Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wrote Tuesday to the U.N. Security Council in a letter obtained by the Times.
Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, said his country wants to settle the claims if they could be reduced through negotiations.
"This extension will give us some relief for another year, give us some breathing space," he said.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe, said the administration supported the extension for now but also "made it clear to the Iraqis that it is important to address the legitimate claims of our citizens."
Without considering legal challenges for compensation, Iraq owes roughly $26 billion for claims handled by the U.N. Compensation Commission and is about $50 billion in debt to other countries, Iraqi officials said.