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EU Considering Conference on Rebuilding Iraq


The European Union says it is looking into plans for an international conference on rebuilding Iraq in June, as a follow-up to an idea EU leaders discussed with President Bush during a summit in February.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the EU presidency, says the organization is ready to help Iraq, if the Baghdad government makes a request for assistance.

"We are looking into the arrangements for such a conference," said Jean Asselborn. "It will probably take place in Brussels at the beginning of June, if the new Iraqi government so wishes. Let me stress that."

EU External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, says such a meeting would send a signal of international commitment to the security and stability of Iraq.

"We think such a conference will be very, very essential," she said. "Similar to [the] conference that we had in London for the Palestinians since this could give to the Iraqi government the opportunity to present its priorities to the wider international community. And I think the moment has come for Iraq to tell the world what kind of future it is planning for its people."

She stressed that no firm decision has been made on the conference, but if it goes ahead, she said all Iraq's neighbors would be invited, as well as organizations and other countries outside the region that actively support Iraq.

Analysts say a EU conference on aiding Iraq would have strong support in Washington, and the European Union has been looking for ways to improve trans-Atlantic ties in the aftermath of the Iraq war, which was strongly opposed in many parts of Europe.

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