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First Day of Dinar Exchange Proceeds Smoothly, Represents Big Step in Iraq

By Donna Miles
National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, Oct. 15, 2003 – The director of the Iraqi currency exchange for the Coalition Provisional Authority called the first day of the currency exchange in Iraq "a great success" that begins the country's move toward "sustainable economic growth."

Click photo for screen-resolution image
A bank worker exchanges old currency for new Iraqi dinars at the Rasheed Bank in Mosul, Iraq, during the first day of the currency exchange, Oct. 15. Photo by Spc. Patricia Lage, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Speaking from Baghdad, retired Army Brig. Gen. Hugh Tant reported no major incidents at more than 230 banks throughout Iraq that began replacing old dinars with the new Iraqi dinar introduced today.

Dan Senor, senior adviser to U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul Bremer III and the Coalition Provisional Authority, told Pentagon reporters the new dinar's introduction represents "another sign that the reconstruction (of Iraq) is on track. It's another step toward major progress."

He called it "symbolic of a unified economy" because it represents the country's first national currency in more than 15 years.

The new dinar replaces two currencies in Iraq: the print dinar, used mainly in the central and southern parts of the country, and the Swiss dinar, used predominantly by the Kurds in the north.

Tant said the new dinar provides a "single, stable and secure currency" that is more convenient because it comes in more denominations and instills confidence because it incorporates anti-counterfeiting features.

But one new-dinar major feature, Tant said, is that it no longer bears Saddam Hussein's likeness. "The bad guy's face will be removed from the country's currency and replaced with scenes that remind the world of Iraq's important scientific, cultural and historic contributions," he said.

"It's a symbolic recognition that Saddam is gone, as are all the horrors that he reaped upon his country," Senor agreed.

Introducing a new currency just six months after the fall of the old regime involved a Herculean, international effort.

The new bills were printed in six countries: Sri Lanka, Kenya, Spain, United Kingdom, Malta and Germany. More than 2,200 tons of new currency equal to about $3 billion -- was flown into Baghdad, then transferred to three distribution hubs throughout the country. A battalion of Fijian soldiers moved the new currency to banks throughout the country and picked up the old currency.

To date, Tant said more than 100 convoys have delivered some 700 tons of currency around the country, with more than 10,000 bank staff and thousands of Iraqi police and bank guards providing security.

Introducing the new currency also involved a major training and support program throughout Iraq's banking system, Tant said. More than 900 Iraqi bankers received training, and about 250 exchange sites throughout the country required counting machines, generators, ultraviolet lights and information packets to support the effort.

Tant said the Central Bank of Iraq and the Coalition Provisional Authority have helped educate the Iraqi people about the exchange program through a massive information campaign involving the media as well as "thousands of posters, millions of handbills and a road show that has been to every region of the country."

Officials said they expect the first several weeks to be the busiest in the three-month exchange period that extends until Jan. 15, 2004. After then, all old dinars will hold no value.

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