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International Donor Group Schedules Iraq Reconstuction Meeting in October - 2003-06-24

Two days of meetings on Iraq ended at the United Nations Tuesday, with plans to hold a high-level conference in October to address the country's reconstruction needs.

The United Nations, the World Bank, and nations including the European Union, Japan, the United States, have agreed to sponsor the conference in October. Although the venue has yet to be determined, the conference will try to meet Iraq's reconstruction needs for 2004.

Prospective international donors are expected to contribute to rebuilding Iraq over the next few years because, initially, Iraqi oil revenues will be insufficient to cover reconstruction costs.

But before donors meet, the U.S.-led coalition must produce a budget for 2004. U.N. agencies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will lead assessment teams to Iraq to evaluate the needs of various sectors.

Mark Malloch Brown chairs the U.N. Development Program, which sponsored an informal session to lay the groundwork for October's donor conference.

"Between now and the conference, an extraordinary complex process of work to be completed," he said. "There is needs assessments which are not done in the abstract. They need to carry with them the confidence of the donors, are they producing the answers and the information that the donors consider right, are they asking the right questions? There is also the development of Iraq's budget for 2004, are its judgments right?"

The decision to hold the conference in October came out of meetings between U.N. officials, the representatives from the U.S.-led Coalition Authority, Iraqi technical experts and prospective donor nations.

During the session, participants stressed the importance of restoring security in Iraq in order to rebuild the country and revive its economy.

Nasreem Sideek Barwari, who is Kurdish, is working with the Coalition Authority as an interim Regional Minister for Reconstruction and Development. She says the long-term planning conference will give Iraqis hope and help them cope with current problems.

"I think by planning for the future, this [is sending] a good message for the Iraqi people to give them hope to go on," he said, "maybe to [help them] tolerate the inefficiency now, the limited inefficiency, whether it is a few hours of electricity or fewer liters of water. But I think this is a good message for the Iraqis."

The preliminary planning for a donor conference on Iraq comes one day after United Nations launched an international appeal for one-quarter of a billion dollars for Iraq's humanitarian needs.