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Iraq Aid Conference Enters Last Day

The international donors conference on Iraq is in a second and final day in Madrid with delegates from some 70 countries and international organizations announcing reconstruction pledges. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says it will be an unprecedented show of support for the emerging post-Saddam Hussein government in Baghdad.

Mr. Powell says the Madrid meeting will not produce the combined $55 billion in aid that the World Bank and the United States say Iraq will need for rebuilding over the next four years. But he says the total will be, by far, the largest amount ever raised by a conference of its kind, and the support will, in his words, "hasten the day" when Iraqis can assume full responsibility for their nation.

"My colleagues, the high hopes of the Iraqi people hang on the strength of our support. It is up to us to help the Iraqi people achieve the end we all seek: an Iraq renewed and re-engaged with the rest of the world," he said. "Now is the time for all of us to be generous, with money, with training, with opportunity."

Powell sought to reassure delegates about the security situation in Iraq, as did U.S. administrator for Iraq Paul Bremer, who told reporters here Thursday that attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, while increasing in frequency, do not pose a strategic threat to the U.S. led coalition.

Mr. Powell said coalition forces backed by emerging new Iraqi security forces will overcome die-hard supporters of the former regime who he said are trying to sow chaos in the country with "gangster" tactics.

"We and our coalition partners are determined to root out Saddam's lethal remnants and the terrorist elements who have come into the country to sow chaos and fear," said Colin Powell. "With international help Iraqis are strengthening their police forces and building a new Iraq army. The Iraqis are doing their part, and now it is time for us to invest in their hopes and in their dreams."

World Bank President James Wolfensohn also addressed the security issue, saying that the restoration of peace in Iraq depends on a demonstration of international solidarity for the new authorities in Baghdad and their efforts to build a democratic system and functioning economy.

"It is a time for us to come forward to demonstrate that there is practical and real support for the Iraqi authorities," he said. "And I say practical and real, because if one is to address the question of security, one needs to address the question of hope. The people in Iraq need to understand that the opportunity for a federal and democratic system is real, and that the international community is united in that assistance."

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund unveiled a loan package for Iraq totaling more than $9 billion over five years.

Mr. Wolfensohn urged the international community to forget past differences over Iraq policy and come together to help rebuild a depressed Iraqi economy that he described as "really on its back."

As have U.S. officials, the Word Bank chief stressed the need for a major restructuring of Iraq's foreign debt, which exceeds $100 billion.

Secretary of State Powell was followed to the podium by a parade of other delegation chiefs announcing aid pledges, including Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi whose government is committing $5 billion over four years.

Saudi Arabia, leading a group of previously uncommitted Gulf states, said it will provide $1 billion in aid, while Kuwait promised a similar amount.