The U.S. Treasury Department announced Thursday the federal government will seize $1.4 billion in Iraqi assets frozen since the first Gulf War, and use the money for humanitarian aid and reconstruction in Iraq.
The department also called on Britain, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and other governments and institutions that have an estimated $600 million in frozen Iraqi assets to do the same.
The announcement by Treasury Secretary John Snow came after President Bush Thursday issued an executive order confiscating "non-diplomatic Iraqi government assets in the United States" and authorizing the Treasury Department to "marshal the assets and to use the funds for the welfare of the Iraqi people."
In a statement, Bush said he had "determined that such use would be in the interest of and for the benefit of the United States."
Thursday's confiscation of Iraqi assets is the president's first use of such power under the U.S. Patriot Act, enacted in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Iraqi assets frozen since the first Gulf War in 1991 are in 18 U.S. banks.