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Iraqi Donor Conference to Focus on Reconstruction


Representatives from the United States and other major donor nations meet in Brussels Wednesday to discuss strategies to pay for the reconstruction of Iraq. The Bush administration says it is counting on substantial efforts from other nations, some of which opposed the U.S.-led war to topple Saddam Hussein, to help foot a bill expected to run into the tens of billions of dollars.

Wednesday's meeting will lay the groundwork for a larger donors' conference set for Madrid in October where State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the Bush administration expects: "To get people to give a substantial amount, to come forward with amounts that they might not otherwise give."

Paul Bremer, the top American official in Iraq, has said the cost is expected to run into the tens of billions of dollars, a figure that members of Congress say can not be met without significant help from other nations. "We have to lead the rest of the world into putting incredible resources into Iraq now to get it up and running," said Joe Biden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But in exchange for contributions of aid, potential donors want the United States to hand over some control of the reconstruction process as well as the awarding of lucrative contracts. The Washington Post reports American efforts get other nations to help pay for Iraqi reconstruction are running into trouble because of concerns about security, and opposition to unilateral American control of the reconstruction process.

"Fighting the war required one type of coalition but building the peace will require a much broader coalition," said Johanna Mendelson-Forman, who is with the U.N. Foundation, an independent group that supports the United Nations. "Now we need to find a mechanism and a road map so that people who want to participate and rebuild Iraq, which I think we all want it to succeed for the sake of the Iraqi people, to open their pocketbooks and their hearts."

At the same time, the Bush administration is also working to draft a new United Nations resolution that would allow countries that opposed the war to contribute troops under a U.N. mandate, provided those troops remain under overall American command.