EU foreign ministers have approved a more than $230 million reconstruction aid package for Iraq, before next week's donors' conference in Spain.
In a joint statement, the ministers called for a realistic timetable for handing over power to the Iraqi people and added a clause insisting on a strong and vital U.N. role. The European Union and has long demanded a greater role by the world body.
Diplomats say divisions remain within the European Union over how much to become involved in Iraq's reconstruction, given what many view as the unstable situation in the country. Diplomats say critics of the war, led by France and Germany, seem unlikely to add much more funding without a satisfactory U.N. resolution on the future of Iraq.
But Britain, which fought along side U.S. forces in the war, is making an extra effort. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the other ministers his country would contribute more than $400 million in additional funds for reconstruction during the next two full years. Speaking to reporters at the start of the meeting, he pledged solid backing for the Iraqi people. "We are very committed, indeed, to the reconstruction-rehabilitation of Iraq. Just as we are so committed to the people of Iraq and that will be reflected in the contribution that we make," he said.
The United Nations, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund estimate that more than $35 billion will be needed during the next four years to get the Iraqi economy going again.
As one EU diplomat put it, "it is no secret that some member states think those who broke Iraq should pay to fix it".