US congressman says Iraq should repay war costs
BAGHDAD (AFP) – A US congressman called on Friday for Iraq to repay a portion of the "mega–dollars" that Washington has spent since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, at a news conference in Baghdad.
Republican representative Dana Rohrabacher's remarks stand in stark contrast to those by senior American officials, including most recently CIA chief Leon Panetta, who has said the United States should seriously consider any Iraqi request for US troops to stay beyond a year–end deadline for their departure.
"Once Iraq becomes a very rich and prosperous country... we would hope that some consideration be given to repaying the United States some of the mega–dollars that we have spent here in the last eight years," Rohrabacher told journalists at the US embassy in Baghdad.
"We were hoping that there would be a consideration of a payback because the United States right now is in close to a very serious economic crisis and we could certainly use some people to care about our situation as we have cared about theirs."
He said he raised the issue in a meeting with Prime Minister Nuri al–Maliki. Rohrabacher, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the US House of Representatives, declined to give specifics on how much should be paid back, or over what timeframe.
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Rohrabacher added that the same principle held for Libya, saying: "If the Libyans for example are willing to help pay, compensate the United States, for what we would spend in helping them through this rough period, that's one way to do it."
"And once Iraq is prosperous... paying back some of the expenditures that we've had helping them establish democracy would be much appreciated," he said.
Around 45,000 American troops are still stationed in Iraq, mostly tasked with training and equipping their Iraqi counterparts.
All US troops must withdraw from the country by the end of the year, according to the terms of a security pact, but US officials have been pressing Baghdad to decide quickly whether or not it wants an extension.
Rohrabacher was leading a bipartisan US congressional delegation on a visit to Iraq, primarily to look into a raid by Iraqi security forces in April on the Ashraf camp housing thousands of exiled Iranians in which at least 35 camp residents died.
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