U.S. special envoy James Baker said after talks with French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday that the French and U.S. governments agreed a deal should be reached to ease Iraq's large international debts.
"The French and the U.S. governments want to reduce the debt burden on Iraq so that its people can enjoy freedom and prosperity," Baker said on the first day of a European trip to discuss a debt relief deal for Iraq.
"It is important to reduce the Iraqi debt burden within the Paris Club (of creditor states) in 2004 if possible," Baker said.
Baker met members of Iraq's U.S.-appointed Governing Council earlier on Tuesday at the start of a trip that will also take him to Russia, Germany, Britain and Italy.
Washington angered France, Germany and Russia last week by excluding them and other opponents of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq from reconstruction contracts worth $18.6 billion in the war-battered country.
But France signalled on Monday it was keen to carve out a role in helping Iraq, saying the Paris Club could strike a debt relief deal in 2004 and that France itself was ready to write off some of Iraq's debts.
The International Monetary Fund puts Iraq's debts at about $120 billion, of which about $40 billion is debt and arrears to the 19 countries in the Paris Club.