US taxpayer hit by Iraq reconstruction

United Nations officials have requested the international donor conference for the rebuilding of Iraq to be delayed.

    Bombing led UN halve its staff in Baghdad, hampering reconstruction efforts

    The bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad destroyed information and cut short studies to assess what was needed in the war-torn country, they say.

    Any postponement will mean that the US taxpayer will have to continue footing the bill, not only for the occupation soldiers, currently running at $4 billion a month, but also the costs associated with getting essential infrastructure in Iraq working.

    The conference, scheduled to begin 23 October, will bring together government representatives from about 50 countries around the world.

    US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who is expected to attend the meeting, has said he hopes countries will donate substantial sums to assist bankrupt Iraq.

    Information

    A delay “will throw more of the burden on us,”  Harvey Sicherman, director of the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, said in an interview with Aljazeera.net.

    “The problem is that one needs supporting information to hold donor conferences. We are not yet at that point,” he added.

    One of the main focuses of the UN mission in Iraq was to assess the scale of infrastructure damage caused by the US-led invasion, more than a decade of UN sanctions and a dearth of investment under Saddam Hussein’s government.

    The 19 August bombing, which left 16 UN staff members dead, destroyed the international body’s Canal Hotel headquarters and led to a reduction in UN personal in Iraq, delaying these assessment surveys.

    Discomfort and reassesment

    One unidentified UN official cited a “level of discomfort with charging ahead,” according to the Washington Post.

    “The attack understandably has triggered a reassessment of what role the UN should be playing. We are in the midst of that reassessment process internally.”

    Still, US Government Spokesman, Richard Boucher, said plans for the conference were on track and that the Iraq assessments were expected to be completed in time.

    “There’s a lot of work that is being done, needs to be done, to get ready for a successful conference in Madrid and that’s going on,” Boucher said at a press conference.

    The meeting “will galvanise the community and is to get people to give a substantial amount … and come forward  with amounts that they might not otherwise give.”

    Sharing costs

    Others have said the meeting is less important than has been publicly claimed by the US government, anxious to show its electorate that it is seeking ways of sharing the astronomical rebuilding costs.

    Donor conferences have not historically yielded the kind of sums that will be needed to pay for Iraq’s reconstruction and countries were to dig deep into their pockets, there is little that can be done whilst lawlessness remains so rampant.

    “Even if you want to help the US, you can do nothing without security,” Sicherman said.

    Republican Jim Kolbe agreed, telling the Washington Post that he has not been expecting much money to come from foreign donors.

    He said the administration has “not being very up front about how much is going to be needed,” though predicted “Congress will come through.”

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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