WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Presidential envoy James A. Baker III headed to the Middle East Monday in a fresh effort to convince countries to reduce Iraq's massive foreign debt.
The White House said Baker, secretary of state in the administration of President George W. Bush's father, was to visit Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia through Thursday.
In addition to talks with top officials of those governments, Baker was to meet with Iraqi officials, but additional details on where were not disclosed.
Iraq racked up hundreds of billions of dollars of debt during the regime of Saddam Hussein, and the United States fears reconstruction efforts and future economic stability will be harmed unless creditor nations move to reduce, restructure or forgive Baghdad's paper.
Baker, acting as Bush's personal envoy, has already visited European and Asian capitals where he received some promises of debt relief help.