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World Bank, IMF Ready to Help Rebuild Iraq - 2003-04-10


The heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund say they are ready to respond to requests for help in the rebuilding of Iraq.

World Bank President James Wolfensohn says any major commitment of funds to rebuild Iraq is contingent on the United Nations recognizing a new Iraqi government.

Horst Koehler, the head of the IMF, says the first step is to determine Iraq's financial needs. The IMF has not examined the Iraqi economy for more than 20 years.

The IMF and World Bank are owned by their 184-member governments and are required to deal only with government entities.

Mr. Kohler, the German civil servant who has headed the fund for more than two years, says the winding down of the Iraq war is good news for a stumbling global economy.

"First, I think we all should be relieved that hopefully the war will end rapidly," he said. "This cloud hanging over us should fade away. Already now oil prices are below, as you may have seen, our assumption for the world economic outlook."

The IMF predicted that the oil price would average $31 a barrel this year.

In addition to the reconstruction of Iraq and what to do about sluggish global growth, the finance ministers will be discussing aid for developing countries. World Bank President Wolfensohn says the rich countries must pay more to help the poor.

"And the figures which are in our documents are huge. They speak to an increase over current levels of up to $50-billion a year. And when you look at the questions of education, health, environment, water, it is not hard to get to a $50-billion figure," he said.

Economic policymakers from the seven richest industrial countries are to meet Friday with the IMF and World Bank leaders. The 22 rich and developing country members of the IMF policy making panel will meet Saturday and the World Bank on Sunday.

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