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IMF, World Bank Meeting Ends with Agreement on Iraq - 2003-04-14


The International Monetary Fund and World Bank meeting ended in Washington Sunday with agreement to assess the reconstruction needs of Iraq and to expand the amount of cash available to the world's poorest countries.

The IMF and World Bank will be sending a mission to Iraq in the next few weeks to find out what needs to be done to help in the reconstruction of oil-rich Iraq.

World Bank President James Wolfensohn says he's not worried that money for Iraq will diminish the flow of resources to poor countries. He is skeptical of reports that Iraq needs $20 billion in immediate aid. "I don't think anybody has been explicit as to where the $20 billion would come from, if it is $20 billion. There are those who think it will come from oil revenue and most people think it will come from somebody else," says Mr. Wolfensohn. "So, I think we're at the beginning of that negotiation, of which we're quite familiar. And it is too early for me to comment other than to say that the assumption people are making here is that this is extra money. This is not out of the base fund [of the Bank]."

Mr. Wolfensohn says overall lending to the poor is to increase. He said the Bush administration has pledged another $100 million to the Bank's lending account for the world's least developed countries.

South Africa's finance minister Trevor Manuel says additional money will be made available to the poorer countries participating in Nepad, the New African Partnership for Development. "The Nepad roll out will be discussed at the G8 summit in Evian, France, in early June. So, you know, I think the commitment to that is very strong," he says. "And I'd like to see that as quite separate and distinct from whatever the immediate and medium-term development needs in Iraq are."

Despite differences over Iraq among the biggest shareholders of the Bank and the Fund, the meetings took place without discord. However, the Americans were unable to obtain any commitment from the Russians, Germans and French to cancel some of the debt owed them by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

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