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Iraqi Official Says US Reconstruction Aid Still Needed


Iraq's ambassador to the United States says his country still needs U.S. reconstruction assistance, despite large Iraqi fiscal surpluses driven by record-high oil prices. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where the ambassador spoke on U.S. television.

When it comes to government revenue, Iraq and the United States are going in opposite directions. While Iraqi coffers continue to expand, the U.S. federal deficit is spiking, and projected to top $300 billion this year amid sluggish U.S. economic growth.

The contrast in national finances has led several U.S. lawmakers to question why the United States continues to spend billions of dollars to help Iraq rebuild its infrastructure in the post-Saddam era, when Iraq appears more than able to handle the financial burden on its own.

Speaking on CNN's Late Edition program, Ambassador Samir Sumaida'ie said Iraq's fiscal situation may be improving, but the needs of the country still outweigh its financial resources.

"Iraq does have a surplus, but Iraq is a completely destroyed country," said Ambassador Sumaida'ie. "The infrastructure has to be rebuilt from the beginning [from the ground up]. A majority of Iraqis do not have access, even, to drinking water."

The ambassador added that, while Iraq has money to spend, the government has had difficulty finding qualified contractors who are willing to work in the country, given security concerns. He stressed that his government is eager to initiate reconstruction projects, and has ambitious goals to that end.

Both major Democratic Party candidates have pledged to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, arguing that the United States cannot afford the financial burdens that an open-ended military presence in the country would necessitate. Both have admitted, however, that U.S. financial commitments to Iraq would not end overnight.

Iraqi officials have said that they would be willing to repay foreign governments that invest in reconstruction projects.

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