Iraq is for the Iraqis and there can be no meaningful effort at rebuilding its destroyed economy without a government chosen by the people, they said.

"We are only creating more animosity in the region," former Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor said in an interview with Aljazeera.

"We must put the Iraqis in control as soon as possible and not rely on a leadership that has been chosen by Americans."

The US formed the Iraq Governing Council on 13 July to act as an interim government in Iraq under the authority of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Most Iraqis have rejected it as unrepresentative.

High cost

With reconstruction of the crippled country projected to cost as much as $100 billion over the next three years, and a US electorate increasingly nervous about who will foot the bill for the war, the administration can ill afford to ignore the US business community.

Still, it is unlikely an election in Iraq could take place before 2005.

"Iraq is in chaos. It is too dangerous"

Ryeong Jung,
Hyundai Information Technology

Private sector companies, who only weeks ago were clamouring for a slice of the reconstruction pie, are now less than keen to get involved in the lawless wreck the country has become as a result of the US invasion and the dethroning of Saddam Hussein.

"How does one get insurance? Who does one’s banking? Where do we get funding for projects?" asked Jwa Ryeong Jung, manager in chief of Hyundai Information Technology's business planning office in an interview.

"Iraq is in chaos. It is too dangerous."

Many stay away

Some companies that have ventured there have resorted to hiring mercenaries to protect them from bandits and resistance fighters.

Others have simply admitted defeat and returned home, saying conditions simply don't warrant business interest.

"There are 50 car-jackings a day in Baghdad," Charles Kestenbaum, a senior associate for business development at Washington-based C&O Resources.

"Local employees refuse to go to work they are so scared. They are frightened for their lives. The question is 'do conditions in Iraq exist to protect capital?’ The answer is ‘no’."

Without Iraqis running Iraq there will be no security. Without security there will be no reconstruction. Without reconstruction, Iraq will turn into a cauldron of despair that threatens to destabilise the entire region, he added.