- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

BAGHDAD (Agence France-Presse) — The U.S.-led administration in Iraq is printing hundreds of thousands of new Iraqi bank notes bearing Saddam Hussein’s portrait in defiance of its own ban on the public display of images of the ousted dictator.

The administration’s head, L. Paul Bremer, acknowledged yesterday that the decision was embarrassing for him, but said there had been no alternative to maintain confidence in the money supply as the coalition strives to get the economy going again.

“Since I issued the instrument telling people to do away with images of Saddam Hussein, I guess you could say it’s not a joy anyway,” Mr. Bremer told a news conference in Baghdad.

He said his administration had come under enormous pressure from Iraqis to remedy the shortage of 250-dinar notes, as the 10,000-dinar bill, the only other one in circulation, trades at a sharply reduced rate against the dollar.

While money-changers are prepared to buy the 250-dinar notes at the usual market rate, which stands at about 1,400 dinars to the dollar, the 10,000-dinar bills are marked down by roughly 25 percent.

Mr. Bremer said his administration was eager to remedy the problem to give the economy a lift and was printing the extra 250-dinar notes to offer at face value against the larger bills so that confidence could be restored.

“This seems to us the least bad solution even if it does mean printing notes with Saddam’s face on it,” he said.

One month into his job, Mr. Bremer has made the revival of the moribund Iraqi economy the priority of his administration.

But the decision to print Saddam bank notes is a major embarrassment for his administration as U.S. troops continue to take casualties in what commanders say is a guerrilla war against die-hard remnants of the ousted president’s regime.

Images of statues of Saddam being torn down across Iraq with the help of U.S. troops were broadcast worldwide and were presented as iconic images of the war.

But in reality, far fewer images were torn down than will now be printed by the U.S.-led administration.

Iraqi newspapers said that in all, 6 billion worth of dinars was expected to be printed, or about 1.5 million notes.

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