Plea for Iraq reconstruction aid

Iraqi and US officials have pleaded for more international aid to rebuild Iraq.

    Burham Salih (R) asked donors to waive Iraqi debts

    The call, at a donor's conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, comes

     as attacks by Iraqi fighters have prompted Washington

    to shift funding from reconstruction to

    security.

    The two-day donors' conference will assess the

    status of $33 billion in aid pledged to Iraq - of which only $

    6.7 billion has so far been spent amid chronic instability.

    The United States last month shifted $3.46 billion of its $

    18.4-billion aid package away from reconstruction to

    restore security and governance and create jobs.

    US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage urged other

    countries to "step into this void" and spend money on Iraq's

    infrastructure.

    "I think the electrical and water areas are two areas that would

    find great favour nationally," Armitage told a news conference.

    Security situation

    The United States said the switch in funding would create 35,000

    new Iraqi police officers, 16,000 new border control officers, and 20

    additional Iraqi national guard brigades.

    "We believe shifting a majority of money into the security area

    will allow us to stand up the Iraqi forces much more rapidly and

    bring much more rapid betterment to the security situation in Iraq,"

    Armitage said.

    "We believe shifting a majority of money into the security area

    will allow us to stand up the Iraqi forces much more rapidly and

    bring much more rapid betterment to the security situation in Iraq"

    Richard Armitage,

    US Deputy Secretary of State

    Some 55 countries and organisations are taking part in the

    conference, the fourth donors' meeting for Iraq since the fall of

    Saddam Hussein last year, and the first since the interim government

    took over from US-led forces in June.

    Interim Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih asked the donors to

    waive the $120 billion in debt left over from Saddam's rule,

    and called on the United Nations to play a more active role in

    Iraq.

    "We need more UN support and we need it now. Please don't let

    the Iraqi people down," Salih said.

    "The development and stability of Iraq cannot be driven forward

    through the barrels of guns. Assistance and aid in the short term is

    the key to destroying the causes of terrorism," he said.

    Donor pledges

    But Ross Mountain, the UN deputy special representative to Iraq

    ,

    said both international and local staff in the country risked being

    attacked or taken hostage.

    "We are trying to find ways of moving ahead. But the situation

    does inhibit our activities. There is no doubt about it," Mountain said

    .

    Machimura (R) says Japan will
    give 

    $40m toward Iraqi elections

    The Tokyo meeting is intended to examine the $33 billion pledged

    at the first donors' conference in Madrid in October 2003,

    as disbursement has been hampered by insecurity in Iraq.

    The interim government has said it would propose to the donors a

    wish list of commitments to 324 projects costing a total $43.5

    billion, including 53 related to infrastructure.

    Host Japan announced it would devote $40 million of the $5 billion

    it has already pledged to support Iraq's

    legislative elections due in January.

    Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said the money was

    being offered in the hope "that the elections take place

    successfully and on schedule".

    Elections

    Armitage said: "Elections have to be held by the end of January.

    "This is a course on which we have embarked and it's one we won't

    waver from. And of course, elections have to be nationwide."

    However, US officials have acknowledged the January vote could spark

    more unrest because of the violence.

    Salih insisted that Iraq had already met other political

    deadlines including the June transfer of power and could meet this

    one.

    "We are determined to prove the doubters wrong again and hold

    elections next year as planned. Our political process is on track

    despite the odds," Salih told the conference.

    SOURCE: AFP


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