The Iraq Reconstruction Forum, dubbed the IRFO, will be launched in two weeks, said Michael Bell, chairman of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq (IRFFI), a body developed early in 2004 to help donor nations channel resources and coordinate support for reconstruction and development in Iraq.

 

"What the Iraqi government has proposed was a new donor coordination mechanism to be established and that will deal separately from IRFFI, that will be a mechanism in which the Iraqi government will take full ownership in the development process in a real and concrete way," Bell said on Tuesday.

 

"It will be the Iraqis who will chair that body, and they will deal with all donors on bilateral and multilateral levels through coordination," he told a news conference at the end of two days of talks by representatives of 60 countries and international organisations on Iraq's reconstruction.

 

Bell said Iraqi Planning Minister Barham Salih would lead the IRFO.

 

Interaction

 

It was not immediately clear how the emerging body will interact with the International Reconstruction Fund.

 

Salih asked the gathering on Monday to allow his war-wracked nation to lead reconstruction efforts. "We need Iraqi leadership, we need Iraqi ownership of the reconstruction programme and a partnership with the international community," he said.

 

Salih was echoing criticism by some Iraqis that many projects were suggested by the now defunct US-backed Interim Governing Council members, many of whom had not been in the country for years.

 

The majority of projects in Iraq went to US and Western companies, but figures were not immediately available.  

 

"We are very hopeful that with the application of these concepts, we will be able to move into a faster pace of reconstruction and implementation"

Barham Salih,
Iraqi planning minister

"We are very hopeful that with the application of these concepts, we will be able to move into a faster pace of reconstruction and implementation," Salih said.

 

The gathering sponsored by the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq is the fourth since last year.

 

Discussions

 

Discussions were held behind closed doors in a lavish conference centre at the shores of the Dead Sea. The reconstruction fund is led by the United Nations and the World Bank.

 

At the Dead Sea, the United Nations and the World Bank presented progress reports on projects that the fund supervises, according to a statement issued at the end of meetings.

 

So far, 19 fund members - including the United States, Japan and Canada - have pledged over $1 billion to the fund, the statement said.

 

It said more pledges were made on Monday, including $5.5 million from Denmark, $20 million from Australia, $2.4 million from Greece, $180.8 million from the European Commission, $12 million from Italy and $20 million from Spain.

 

The contributions are separate from the $32 billion in loans and grants pledged for Iraq's reconstruction at the October 2003 donor conference in Madrid, Spain.


Bell
said the next meeting will be in February.