The head of the U.S. provisional administration in Iraq, Paul Bremer, is urging Congress to approve the entire $87 billion emergency spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Bremer is warning that if the money is not approved Iraq could become a breeding ground for terrorism.
Ambassador Bremer told reporters here at the Pentagon that the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) needs the entire budget request if it is going to continue its efforts to bring stability and democracy to Iraq.
While Congress is expected to approve the $66 billion in the legislation that will support U.S. soldiers in Iraq, it is not clear whether the more than $20 billion to reconstruct the country will also receive approval on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Bremer said those reconstruction funds are critical and should not be carved out of the overall package.
"The $20 billion of the $87 billion for which the CPA would be responsible is an important part in the overall effort to win the war against terrorism in Iraq. This is an integrated budget request where no one part is more important than another. And the $20 billion is an essential part of supplementing the other $66 billion," Mr. Bremer said.
Ambassador Bremer said if the money is not approved Iraq could collapse into complete chaos and become a country that would attract terrorists and breed terrorism.
He pointed out that U.S. forces in Iraq are holding 19 suspected members of the al-Qaida terrorist network and some 248 foreign fighters, about half from Syria, have also been captured.
"If we don't succeed in the reconstruction effort in Iraq, there is a very real risk, and I think a likelihood, that Iraq will, because of the continued instability and poverty become the kind of breeding ground for terrorism that we have seen in other countries in the last 20 years," Mr. Bremer said.
Mr. Bremer agrees with Secretary of State Colin Powell that six months is a good timetable for Iraqi leaders to write a new constitution.
He was careful, however, to point out that this is not a firm deadline. "We don't know how long it will take for them to write the constitution. Six months seems to me a reasonable guess as to how long it will take. But there are no deadlines involved here. What we are talking about is trying to emphasize our interest, which coincides with the Iraqi Governing Council's interest in moving along. And we hope the Governing Council in fact will convene this constitutional conference quickly and will get on with the job of writing the constitution," Mr. Bremer said.
Ambassador Bremer says he has no plans to come back to the American taxpayers and ask for more funds if the U.S. Congress approves the $87 billion supplemental budget.
The Congress is expected to begin debate on the legislation next week.