Global Policy Forum

Iraq Pleads for Financial Assistance

Associated Press
October 13, 2004

Iraq's acting deputy leader pleaded with donors Wednesday to fulfill their promises of aid to help rebuild his war-ravaged nation. Of the $13.6-billion in grants and loans promised last year by nations and lending institutions, only about $1-billion has been deposited in World Bank and UN funds for Iraq. The shortfalls are compounded by U.S. actions. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage acknowledged Wednesday that Washington was initially too slow in channelling money to Iraq.

Iraqi interim deputy leader Barham Saleh and four other members of Iraq's interim Cabinet were at the 55-nation conference that opened Wednesday in Tokyo in hopes of convincing participants that their country is both in need of donations and safe enough for the money to be effective. "Development and stability in Iraq cannot be driven through the barrels of guns," Mr. Saleh said in an impassioned speech to open the two-day conference. "Assistance and aid in the short term is the key to destroying the causes of terrorism. It is also the only way we can build a sustainable, long-term future for our people."

He said that Iraq's wealth had been "utterly squandered by tyranny" before a U.S.-led coalition invaded the country last year and toppled Saddam Hussein. "Please do not delay — the time to make firm commitments is now. Honour your pledges now," he said. Mr. Armitage acknowledged the slow pace and said the recent use of more U.S. funds for security has created a "void," particularly in the electrical and water sectors in Iraq. "It took longer than necessary to get our act together prior to turning over sovereignty," he said. Mr. Armitage stressed that the United States — Iraq's leading donor nation, with a pledge of $18.4-billion — is "picking up the pace."

The United States has disbursed about $3-billion for reconstruction so far, including about one-third in the past 12 weeks. Mr. Armitage also called on other nations to join the United States in giving Iraq major debt relief. He said Iraq's debt is about $125-billion, and said he believes Washington has won assurances for at least half of that to be forgiven. The donors' meeting follows a conference in Madrid last year in which 37 countries and international lending institutions pledged $13.6-billion in grants and loans. Other meetings have followed, most recently in Doha, Qatar, in May. But the continuing instability in Iraq has stalled reconstruction and diverted funds to security. Few new pledges were expected in Tokyo.

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