More than 70 countries are being represented at the US backed conference that aims to secure $36 billion for the rebuilding of the war-damaged country.

The lack of security in Iraq means that many countries are not willing to offer extra money as the Americans had hoped.

France, Germany, and Russia which opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq have already said that they would not provide more money for the re-building of the war torn country.

Paul Bremmer, head of the US Coalition Authority in Iraq, said it was ''time for the French government to put aside all the disputes we may have had''.

The meeting comes days after a United Nations Security Council resolution was passed calling for a multinational force to be sent to Iraq and for the international community to provide aid for the population.

Expectations

The UN and the World Bank said $50bn was needed for reconstruction work, but it seemed unlikely that Washington would be able to secure half of the amount from the international community.

US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, played down American expectations of raising a large sum from the international community saying that there would be a ''shortfall''.

A number of wealthy donors, including the Gulf States have yet to announce their contributions.

Iraqi debt

The sums of money that are being pledged will be dwarfed in the future by huge debts that Iraq is facing, estimated to be about $123bn.

The interim budget for the provisional Iraqi government in 2003 is expected to be $3bn in the red, with sovereign debt of more than $100bn.

Iraqi Planning Minister Mahdi Hafiz said that that Iraq would be consulting the World Bank and International Monetary Fund on how to cope with the huge debt burden.

UN

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also made an appeal for more money warning that disagreements between the US and its critics over a timetable for handing sovereignty back to Iraqis could lead to more suffering.

''I appeal to donors to give and to give generously, and for those contributions to be provided in addition to existing commitments," he said.

So far $3 billion has been pledged in addition to the $20 billion that the US has pledged over 18 months.