CAIRO: Egypt and Iraq are close to a deal on compensation estimated at $1 billion for Egyptian workers who were not paid remittances during Iraq’s 1990-1991 invasion of Kuwait, officials from both sides said on Wednesday.
Iraq had been in financial crisis then as it could not sell oil, its only export, Iraqi Labor Minister Nassar Rubaie said.
The two countries have been trying to resolve the issue involving about 900,000 Egyptians since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003. The row focuses on about $544 million in interest on an original $408 million owed to Egyptian workers.
"We are close to reaching a solution to the issue of Egyptian compensation in Iraq," said Egyptian Manpower Minister Ahmed Hassan El-Borai after Rubaie held talks in Cairo.
"We have set up a technical committee which will visit Iraq soon to sign an agreement in this regard," he added.
Egypt says Iraqi banks withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in remittances earned before and just after Baghdad’s invasion. It says banks stopped transferring the wages on Aug. 2, 1990, the day of the invasion.
Rubaie said Iraq wanted to speed up the workers’ payments and that Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki had invited his Egyptian counterpart, Essam Sharaf, to visit Iraq to discuss the matter.
"The problem relates to the interest, which requires dialogue and talks on the technical issues between the two countries. A visit will resolve many of the problems related to the interests of the Egyptian workforce in Iraq," Rubaie said.