The Bush administration Tuesday said it is reallocating nearly $3.5 billions in aid money for Iraq to bolster security and generate new jobs in advance of elections to be held there in January.
The U.S. Congress approved a more than $18 billion package of mainly long-term reconstruction aid for Iraq last November. But security problems stemming from the insurgency there have slowed disbursement of the funds to a trickle.
The Bush administration is now going back to Congress with a request to reallocate nearly $3.5 billion of that total, with most of that money to be redirected to additional Iraqi security forces and public works projects aimed at quickly creating jobs.
The decision was announced by the State Department's third-ranking official, Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Marc Grossman.
He said aid money that had been largely set aside for electricity and water and sewer projects will instead be spent mostly on security and law enforcement, including the recruitment and training of more than 75,000 new Iraqi police, border guards and national guardsmen.
Mr. Grossman noted that insurgent attacks earlier Tuesday had at least temporarily cut off electric power to a large part of Iraq, and said that unless security can be restored in the country, the rebuilding process cannot go forward.
"As we saw today, without security there's no possibility, as many power plants as you have, to actually get electricity, water, sewerage and power to Iraqis," he said. "And so that's why so much of the money in the reallocation that you see, is moving toward security. That is the fundamental question here."
Mr. Grossman stressed that even with the reallocations, more than $6 billion in the aid package remains targeted on sewer, water and power projects Iraq desperately needs.
The Bush administration has come under criticism in Congress for the slow pace of the reconstruction effort and Mr. Grossman said that as of last week only about $1.1 billion dollars of the aid package had actually been spent.
He said the revised package, crafted mainly by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte and his staff, would combat the insurgency not only with expanded Iraqi security forces, but with about $300 million in quick-start job projects that could help ease public discontent in the country.
Mr. Grossman also said he is confident the Iraqi elections will go forward on schedule. The country's transitional administrative law calls for elections by the end of January for a 275-member national assembly and for regional and provincial governments.