Officials from Iraq's U.S.-backed Governing Council are urging international donors and investors not to be put off by their country's instability, and promise big rewards for those who put their money into Iraq now.
Mowazzam al-Rubaie, a member of Iraq's Governing Council, is a tireless salesman for the new Iraq. Along with other members of the council and several Iraqi cabinet ministers, Mr. Rubaie is touting the advantages his country can offer donors and investors gathered at the Madrid conference.
First, says Mr. Rubaie, the new Iraq offers wide-scale free market reforms and a responsible government. Its location at the center of an oil-rich region, he says, could make it the ideal place for investors. But, says Mr. Rubaie, now is the time for donors and investors to jump into Iraq.
"We believe that Iraq has great potential, and we believe that there is a huge opportunity in Iraq," he said. "And for those who are going to help us during the difficult times, they are going to be, if you like, our favorite clients in future. And we will not forget them. We will definitely lean toward those who have helped us in these times. And we will certainly lean toward them in giving them contracts in future."
But what about the security situation? Many multi-nationals are reluctant to send employees to Iraq to take a closer look at opportunities there, until the U.S.-led coalition can stop, or at least curtail, attacks by Iraqi and foreign militants.
Mr. Rubaie says security issues should not obstruct contributions to his country's reconstruction. He says aid and investment pledges are urgent, if the Governing Council is to provide food and health services for its people, and fight the unemployment he says creates the environment for terrorism.
To underscore Iraq's immediate needs, Mr. Rubaie paints a grim picture of the country as it tries to recover from three wars, 12 years of sanctions and 30 years of dictatorship. He says that more than two thirds of Iraqis depend on food rations, that less than half of the 26 million people have access to pure drinking water, and that 20 percent of children under the age of five are malnourished.
He says that is why Iraq needs the international community to help it get back on its feet.
"We need the money immediately," said Mowazzam al-Rubaie. "We need to inject cash in the Iraqi economy to stimulate that economy, to combat unemployment, to start rebuilding the country."
Mowazzam al-Rubaie dismisses reports that the donors' conference will fail to come up with most of the $36 billion the World Bank says Iraq needs during the next four years. He says the Governing Council has confidential pledges from potential donors who, for one reason or another, have not announced their commitments publicly.