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World Bank President Optimistic Iraq Funding to Increase as Security Improves - 2003-10-30

The president of the World Bank Wednesday expressed satisfaction with the amount of money to rebuild Iraq that was pledged last week at a meeting in Madrid, Spain. James Wolfensohn spoke at Washington's National Press Club.

Mr. Wolfensohn dismissed reports that the donors conference was a failure because pledges reached only $33 billion instead of the $56 billion initially hoped for by the World Bank. Of the $33 billion, $20 billion has been pledged by the United States while another $8 billion will come from the World Bank itself and the International Monetary Fund.

"What I should say to you from my own experience is, and without at all being partisan, is that to have at the beginning of a five-year period already $33 billion indicated is a remarkable start," he said.

Mr. Wolfensohn, who was at the Madrid meeting, said it is not surprising that France, Germany and Russia which opposed the war in Iraq have not come forward with promises of aid.

"You can not expect that countries that were fighting vigorously at the United Nations about the conduct of things would come and want to open their checkbooks when their foreign minister or president is regaling against the [U.S.] administration," he went on to say.

Mr. Wolfensohn believes Germany, France and Russia will make financial pledges once the security situation has stabilized, a constitution been written, and a transfer of power to the Iraqi people is underway.

"This has to be an Iraqi activity. If it is not, A, it will fail, and, B, it would be wrong. And I would say the thing that impressed me most was the quality of the Iraqi representatives we had there [in Madrid] who seemed very clear in what they wanted to do," he said.

Mr. Wolfensohn added that the issue of financing for Iraq can not be separated from its existing foreign debt of $125 billion. The Bush administration is pushing for that debt to be cancelled.