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Britain Urges International Donors to be Generous to Iraq - 2003-10-23

Britain is calling on the international community to be generous toward Iraq at the donors' conference in Madrid.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a news conference in London that if international donors are charitable to Iraq, it will benefit the rest of the Middle East and the world.

"I hope that countries give generously," said Mr. Blair, "because whatever people think, whether they agreed with the conflict in Iraq or did not, the fact of the matter is that Iraq can get back on its feet, or get on its feet actually for the first time in decades, and go forward and do well, and that will have a huge impact on the region and on the wider world and on stability."

Britain has pledged nearly $900 million in aid for Iraq. The United Nations and the World Bank estimate Iraq will need $36 billion during the next four years, and the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq says the total need could be $55 billion.

Mr. Blair made his appeal as the British charity agency Christian Aid said the authority cannot account for $4 billion of Iraqi reconstruction funds. The group said the money includes U.N. Oil for Food funds, assets seized from the Saddam Hussein regime, and revenue from Iraqi oil sales. Christian Aid is calling for the international community to demand a proper accounting of existing Iraqi funds.

A spokesman in Madrid for the Coalition Provisional Authority questioned the timing of the report, and said it was a distraction from the donors conference. In Baghdad, the authority said it is committed to transparency and accountability in handling Iraq's money.