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Rumsfeld Hopeful Gulf States Will Contribute to Rebuilding Iraq - 2003-10-21

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he is hopeful foreign countries, especially the Gulf states, will offer significant contributions to the rebuilding of Iraq. An international donors' conference is being held in Madrid later this week.

Mr. Rumsfeld says he has no specific expectations for the international donors' conference on Iraq but plenty of hopes.

"I have hope that people will recognize how important what is happening in that country [Iraq] is, how difficult it is, the fact that we have made some progress," he said.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld notes 32 countries have already contributed troops to the U.S.-led coalition force in Iraq and that the U.N. Security Council has just passed a resolution encouraging other countries to participate both with forces and financial assistance.

He says the Gulf states in particular are being solicited for contributions. Mr. Rumsfeld says they have an unprecedented opportunity to improve the region's security by helping in Iraq.

"The opportunity to significantly improve that region of the world is an enormous one," he said.

The New York Times quotes senior Pentagon officials as saying they will be looking to the Gulf states to provide billions of dollars in contributions for Iraq's reconstruction. The newspaper quotes one unidentified defense official as saying the Saudis and the Kuwaitis have a clear interest as well as the financial means to help.

Mr. Rumsfeld acknowledges any new offers of troops for the military coalition in Iraq will be welcome because they will help ease the burden on the 130,000 U.S. forces currently there.

But he also says adding more foreign troops to the 24,000 already in Iraq will send an important message.

"It tells the Iraqi people that this is a very broad coalition and that it's an international issue and it's not an occupation, it's a temporary matter, it's interim," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Mr. Rumsfeld says talks are under way with Turkey and at least four or five other countries about providing troops for Iraq. He does not identify the other countries.