BAGHDAD — Iraq cannot sustain its reparations payments to Kuwait for Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion, which it says are the highest paid by any country in history, Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said Thursday.
"Iraq has paid Kuwait enormous amounts of compensation for its losses and we do not know of any country in the world that has paid such high sums," Shahristani told reporters in Baghdad.
"The sum of money that Germany paid to France and Britain is less than what Iraq has paid to Kuwait, even though that was a world war and the losses were considerable."
On April 13, Adnan Abdulsamad, head of the Kuwaiti parliament's budgets committee, said the emirate had so far received 17.5 billion dollars out of the 41.8 billion dollars approved by a United Nations special compensation fund.
"Iraq cannot continue to make these payments and has made this known to the UN Security Council," Shahristani said. "We call on our Kuwaiti brothers to work together with us to forget the past, which has cost our country more than our neighbours."
Following World War I, the Treaty of Versailles required Germany to pay reparations of 132 billion gold marks (around 31 billion dollars at the time) but Germany repeatedly argued for the amount to be reviewed and ceased payments after Hitler came to power in 1933.
After World War II, Germany was required to pay 315 million dollars, equivalent to around 4.1 billion dollars in current money after accounting for inflation.
Iraq is required to put five percent of its oil revenues into a UN reparations fund, which has so far paid out 28.9 billion dollars to claimants.
Since Saddam's overthrow in the US-led invasion of 2003, Iraq has repeatedly appealed to Kuwait and other countries to waive tens of billions of dollars in compensation and debt payments.
The bulk of the money is owed to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Iraq also owes Kuwait around 16 billion dollars for loans Saddam took out to fund his 1980-88 war with Iran, which was largely bankrolled by the oil-rich Gulf states.
As it has struggled with insecurity and a raft of economic problems since 2003, Iraq has appealed for the percentage taken out of its oil revenues to be reduced.
In July, UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Iraq to consider investments and other alternatives to resolve its reparations dispute with Kuwait, and pressed the Security Council to help Baghdad meet outstanding obligations.
Last September, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah said his country is considering a proposal by Ban to recover the unpaid compensation by investing in joint ventures in Iraq.