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Iraq urges donors to release cash


Talon

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Iraq urges donors to release cash

Iraq's deputy leader has urged donors to release the aid money they have pledged, saying it is the key to destroying terrorism in the country.

Barham Saleh made the plea to representatives of 55 nations at the start of a two-day conference in Tokyo.

Almost $14bn was pledged at a donors' conference in Madrid last year, but concerns about security in Iraq mean only about $1bn has been released.

Bombings, kidnappings and ambushes remain almost daily events in Iraq.

About 140,000 foreign troops, the vast majority American, remain in the country.

Mr Saleh told the conference: "Development and stability in Iraq cannot be driven through the barrels of a gun.

"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."

This is the fourth donors' meeting since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the first since the June handover of sovereignty from the US to the interim government.

Iraq has not appealed for further donations of aid at this conference, but is asking nations and organisations to unlock funds already pledged.

Security diversions

In addition to the $13bn pledged in Madrid a year ago, the US has offered another $18bn.

But of that, only $1bn has been spent on reconstruction. Another $3.5bn has been diverted to urgent security and employment projects.

Iraq's interim government has said it will provide donors with a wish-list of 324 projects which require $43.5bn.

Other Iraqi delegates repeated pleas to creditors to forgive Baghdad its debts of around $125bn - though this topic is not officially on the agenda of the Tokyo meeting.

Among those attending the conference are countries which opposed the invasion of Iraq, including France, Germany and Russia.

"For those countries that held back on political or geopolitical grounds, we ask you should not withdraw or delay your support any longer," said Mr Saleh.

UN rebuff

General elections in Iraq are provisionally scheduled for January, a timeframe US and Iraqi officials have kept in place despite the ongoing violence.

But Mr Saleh acknowledged the problems and said more help was needed on the ground - particularly from organisations like the United Nations.

"I ask the United Nations, where is the critical support for the political process that the UN is mandated to provide?" he said.

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

But the UN delegate said putting more people in the country now would only provide terrorists with high-profile "targets", the Associated Press news agency said.

"It isn't enough, and we know it," said Mark Malloch Brown, UN Development Programme administrator, referring to personnel levels in Iraq.

"It lies heavily on our conscience. But we must remain prudent."

Little help

In response to Mr Saleh's plea, Japan said it would earmark $40m of $5bn already pledged to support the January elections.

Iran promised $10m.

But the BBC's correspondent in Tokyo, Jonathan Head, says apart from these small offers little new help is likely to come from this conference - only suggestions of how best to proceed in the difficult conditions which prevail in Iraq today.

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ast/3738608.stm

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