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Firms line up to collect Iraqi bills
South Korea's Hyundai Engineering and others resuming efforts to collect money from past projects.
October 13, 2003: 9:45 AM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - A group of South Korean companies are the latest entries in the wrangling for Iraq's finances.

Iraq owes South Korea's Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co. about $1 billion in unpaid bills stemming from reconstruction projects following the 1991 Gulf War.

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The company now believes it can collect, since the power in the country has changed hands, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But the efforts to collect its unpaid bills may run afoul of the Bush administration, which is feeling the economic strain of wrapping up the war and rebuilding Iraq. The White House recently asked Congress for $87 billion to continue work in the country.

"We've been clear that U.S. aid will not go to pay foreign creditors, and that we believe a deep debt restructuring is going to be necessary once we've studied all the numbers and worked this out," a senior Bush administration official said, according to the Journal.

Hyundai has made some progress in U.S. and British courts in retrieving its money, but the United Nations has protected Iraqi assets from creditors until 2007 as the country struggles to recover from sanctions and two wars since 1991, the paper reported.

Iraq is thought to owe $100 billion to $130 billion in foreign debt, including funds owed to U.S. firms that may be keeping a low profile to avoid appearing to have helped a regime that the United States later toppled, according to the Journal.  Top of page




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