Iraq

Give aid now or risk instability, Iraq tells world

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News and Press Release
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By Suleiman al-Khalidi

DEAD SEA, Jordan, July 19 (Reuters) - Iraq urged the international community on Tuesday to deliver immediately on its aid pledges and warned more delays would further destabilise the troubled country and threaten global security.

The international community has pledged billions of dollars to help rebuild Iraq but only a small amount of that has actually been spent.

Concerns about the sustainability of the post-Saddam Hussein political system, violence and widespread corruption have led donors to be cautious about implementing their pledges.

"Unless we move fast and effectively in the next few months we will have very serious problems on our hands," Planning Minister Barham Salih told Reuters.

"Failure is not an option because it will have dire consequences for the Iraqi people and for the region and for world security."

Salih was speaking on the second day of a meeting of 60 countries and international organisations, to follow up on conferences in Madrid and Tokyo over the last two years at which they pledged $14 billion.

The meeting includes countries such as Germany and France that opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that removed Saddam and his Baath Party from power.

Iraqi and U.S. officials say donors are concerned about graft and mismanagement and disruption from anti-U.S. insurgents targeting efforts to revive the economy.

The United States has separately allocated more than $18 billion, but progress on American funded projects in Iraq has been also slow with money being diverted to security.

AMERICAN PROJECT

"While we remain grateful to the United States for what it has done by way of helping Iraqis, but Iraq must move beyond an American project and become an international project to help the people of Iraq overcome the challenge," Salih said.

The government hopes that better living standards in Iraq and economic progress will help defeat rebels driven by their own brand of nationalism and religious fervour.

Christiaan Poortman, the World Bank's Vice President for the Middle East, said a monitoring and evaluation system was being set up to help channel larger aid volumes.

"The international community is perhaps even more aware now than it was two years ago that we need to show results on the ground and that the hearts and minds of the people need to be satisfied," Poortman told Reuters.

Iraq's economy continues to suffer in the meantime. Iraq's central bank chief economist Mudhir Salih Kasim says basic services, such as water and electricity, are in their worst state in decades.

The World Bank has extended a $500 million soft loan for Iraqi infrastructure projects with an interest-free grace period of more than 10 years.

The loan is the first from the World Bank to Iraq since 1973. The bank already manages $400 million of donor money to Iraq. The United Nations manages another $500 million.

Participants at the conference were holding technical discussions on the feasibility and financing of specific projects that Iraq has presented.

"These went very well because we are working on nitty gritty details on what needs done," said Staffan Demistura, Deputy Special Representative for the U.N. Secretary General in Iraq.

"We heard for the first time the clear priorities from the Iraqi side on what they want to do," Demistura said.

The projects are part of a document called the National Development Strategy, an overview of the most pressing needs.

Iraqi officials say the list covers sectors which have been a priority for years including oil facilities, water and sanitation, sewage and power generation.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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