Planning minister Mahdi al-Hafidh told journalists in Baghdad on Monday a meeting would convene in the United Arab Emirates at the end of February to activate two funds run by the World Bank and the United Nations.

 

The accounts are to manage around $15 billion of non-US aid pledged to Iraq. "It is vital for these commitments to be realised as soon as possible. The need is urgent. Iraq is in a state of destruction," the minister said.

 

"We called the Abu Dhabi meeting to implement the Madrid pledges. We are expecting progress and preparing a host of projects to present and speed up the process."

 

The minister was referring to the Madrid donors' conference in October 2003 when two funds to manage aid and loans were pledged by countries other than the United States to help rebuild Iraq.

 

Washington has allocated $18.6 billion to Iraqi reconstruction separately as bilateral aid that did not go through the funds.

 

The US-led administration of Iraq said it would soon announce contracts for a major part of the aid, such as electricity.

 

Need for transparency

 

"We stress the need for transparency. There is a double Iraqi and US authority in the country, creating a lot of gaps that make it very hard to know details of what is going on," the minister said.

 

"We called the Abu Dhabi meeting to implement the Madrid pledges. We are expecting progress and preparing a host of projects to present and speed up the process"

 

Madhi al-Hafidh,
Planning and development minister

An estimated $56 billion is needed over the next few years to finance Iraq's rebuilding after more than a decade of sanctions and the war in 2003 that toppled former president Saddam Hussein.

 

Washington touted the Madrid conference as proof it could whip up international support for Iraqi reconstruction despite opposition to the invasion itself.

 

Al-Hafidh said the $15 billion that was pledged during Madrid had not gone into the funds yet.

 

Ending the delay

 

"The security complications have been behind the delay," the planning minister said, adding that he met recently with World Bank President James Wolfensohn and senior UN officials in Washington and New York to discuss the situation.

 

Al-Hafidh, a former senior official at the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, said Iraq was urging the World Bank and United Nations to re-establish a presence in Iraq for the aid to be administered effectively.

 

"The United Nations is trying to work from outside the Iraqi borders, from Jordan and from Cyprus. We have big reservations about this," Al-Hafidh said.

 

The United Nations pulled international staff out of Iraq last year after its headquarters in Baghdad was bombed twice.