The United Nations is appealing to the international community to finance a five-year reconstruction plan for Iraq. VOA correspondent Peter Heinlein has details from U.N. headquarters in New York.
It is called the International Compact with Iraq, and representatives of nearly 100 countries and financial institutions gathered at the United Nations Friday to hear how it might unleash the strife-torn nation's vast potential.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the meeting with a sober assessment. He noted that there have already been a multitude of initiatives that have failed to yield what he called "tangible results." He admitted that success of this initiative depends on political progress in Iraq, and a reduction of violence.
Earlier, he told reporters the purpose of the compact is to send a signal to Iraqis that the international community will support them as they rebuild the country's battered infrastructure. "We hope this will give, first of all, a substantially and politically important message to the Iraqi people, so that they will be encouraged to do their own to bring peace and security to their country, and also to give a strong message that the international community is behind them to support their noble efforts," he said.
Iraqi Vice-President Adil Abdal Mahdi led a high-level delegation from Baghdad at the Compact meeting. He told reporters the "compact," or bargain, involves a commitment of support from the international community in return for a stable and secure nation in a vital part of the world.
"We tried to put the whole international community in front of its obligations, saying that recovery in Iraq is (to the) benefit of all countries, all nations. That's why we think there is a mutual interest of the Iraqi government on one side, and from other countries from the other side," he said.
Assistant Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt led the U.S. contingent at the U.N. conference. He was asked by a reporter afterward how he would respond to those who argue that, given the level of violence in Iraq, reconstruction projects are a waste of money.
"My response is that success in Iraq will come through coordinated political economic and security strategy. There are places in Iraq, already, that are secure enough to provide reconstruction and other essential services to the Iraqi people. We should move to do that, and when other areas become secure, we need to be ready to do that. That means on the economic side we have to have a budget, we have to have the ability to execute that budget. You have to have capacity both in ministries in Baghdad and in the provinces to ensure that money can be put to the effective use it is intended, and that is, a better life for Iraqi people," he said.
Kimmitt said a follow-up meeting could be held within a few weeks, when nations and international institutions will be asked to make pledges of assistance to the compact. U.S. officials say Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is likely to attend that conference.