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Iraq Asks Leaders to Lift Sanctions, Forgive Debt

Al-Maliki addressed an international delegation at a Stockholm conference on reconstruction and stability in Iraq. According to Iraqi government numbers, the country’s total debt is some $140 billion, including $10 billion owed to Saudi Arabia.

About 100 delegations are taking part in the conference, including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

This is the first follow-up meeting since the International Compact with Iraq, a five-year peace and economic development plan, was put in place in May 2007.

At that meeting, more than 60 countries and groups promised to cancel $30 billion of Iraqi debt.

Meanwhile in Iraq, a suicide bombing in a crowd of police recruits killed 16 men Thursday, hours after another suicide bomber driving a police vehicle killed three Iraqi security personnel in Mosul.

Two of the men killed in the latest attack were police officers, the other 14 were recruits. The bombing happened in the northwest city of Sinjar, the location of a series of suicide truck bombings last August that killed nearly 500 people.

The top official in Sinjar, Dakhil Qassim, told the Associated Press that security personnel received tips that police recruiting would be targeted. They issued a warning to stay away from the centers, but a crowd still formed at the site of the bombing.

“We told them that there (was) no more recruiting for security reasons,” Qassim said.
“But people gathered at recruiting center anyway hoping that some official might register their names.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but U.S. and Iraqi commanders say insurgents have been fleeing Mosul, about 75 miles from Sinjar, for more remote areas.

Iraqi security forces and U.S. military personnel have been conducting a crackdown on insurgents in Mosul since May 14, but have seen little resistance and only sporadic attacks, like the one early Thursday that killed three Iraqi security personnel.

Mosul is Iraq’s third largest city and is regarded by U.S. military as the last urban bastion for al-Qaida in Iraq, Agence France-Presse reported.

The latest violence came as the U.S. announced it will withdraw 4,000 troops next month, the fourth of five surge brigades to be withdrawn, citing low levels of violence and progress made by the surge.

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