The administrator of the U.S. agency leading efforts to provide economic and humanitarian assistance in Iraq says his agency is having success in that country.

The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Andrew Natsios, says one of the fastest and biggest reconstruction efforts ever seen has been going on the last six months in Iraq.

More than $2 billion have already been spent on food, health, electricity, and schools, and general reconstruction.

But Mr. Natsios says many Americans and Europeans are unaware of such progress.

"The media reports things that don't work. They report bad news," he said. "The fact that there were no riots, no demonstrations, no reports of mass starvation in the food system is not a reportable event on the front pages of a newspaper."

Mr. Natsios's optimism about progress in Iraq stems partly from the fact that the country once had the Arab world's most advanced educational system, a highly sophisticated health system, and low child mortality rates, before the 1980s war with Iran ate up the nation's wealth.

Mr. Natsios says Iraq's desire to once again become a democracy rests with its local governments.

"The fact that so much of the country is peaceful right now is a commentary on the strength of local institutions: the mosques, the more moderate sheiks, the villages," he explained.

Mr. Natsios admits the United States has not done a good job communicating to the Iraqi people on what a democracy is and the progress towards reconstruction made so far.

He plans to head back to Iraq next month and says U.S. administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, has set up a nationwide communications system to send out daily reports to the Iraqi people.