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VOA Interview: Former US President Calls for International Conference on Iraq

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says convening an international conference on the world's commitment to help Iraq overcome the effects of war would reassure the Iraqi people. VOA's Kane Farabaugh interviewed the former president, and Sean Maroney prepared this report.

Mr. Carter is calling for an international conference of the United States, European nations, the countries surrounding Iraq and others to discuss the current situation.

He says the world should make a commitment to Iraq.

"[We need] to collectively tell the Iraqi people, 'look the world is interested in your future. We would like to see the damage done to you by the war be alleviated. We would like to see you have fresh water to drink and electricity in your homes. We would like to see your schools reopened. We will help you with that,'" said Mr. Carter.

Mr. Carter says the conference should also reassure the Iraqi people that the international community wants to see Iraq handle its own security and make its own political and economic decisions, including how to sell the country's oil.

"I think this reassurance from the rest of the world, including the United States, of course, will be the best long-term avenue toward a good life for the Iraqi people," he added.

Mr. Carter sat down with VOA Thursday to discuss how to best alleviate the damage done by the war in Iraq. Iraqi officials say more than 1,800 civilians were killed last month. That is a 40 percent increase from October. The United Nations also issued a report that says sectarian violence was the main cause of the deaths.

Mr. Carter also says he believes Iran and Syria should be brought into the discussion about Iraq's future.

"That ought to be the premise on which it's done," he noted. "Not for the United States or Iran to recapitulate old grievances or demand prerequisites for participation."

A bipartisan U.S. panel, which will present its findings on Wednesday, is expected, according to U.S. media reports, to recommend a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops and shifting U.S. forces from combat to support operations.

Mr. Carter says he hopes the panel's recommendations on policy toward Iraq will be followed.

National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley told reporters Thursday, President Bush is likely to begin making changes in Iraq policy in "weeks rather than months."