Sacked Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari speaks during a news conference in Erbil, Iraq, September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
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Last week's dismissal of Iraqi Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari, the latest convulsion in Baghdad's increasingly unstable politics, risks delaying billions of dollars in badly needed budget support from international lenders and investors.The IMF approved a three-year, $5.34 billion standby loan in July, in exchange for a package of economic reforms.Christian Josz, head of the IMF's Iraq mission, called Zebari "a champion" of the standby agreement.Revising the draft budget that Iraq presented to the IMF last month is key, Josz said.The IMF meeting will be a "crux point," said a Western diplomat in Baghdad who closely monitors Iraq's economic affairs.Changing ministers in the middle of an IMF program would not necessarily pose a significant obstacle by itself, but Iraq's deal is just taking effect and many of the reforms were driven by Zebari himself, the diplomat said.Sami Askari, a senior Shiite politician, said Baghdad would be able to maintain its IMF deal without Zebari, just as it had managed to press on with its military campaign despite the vacancies in the security ministries.
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