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Iraq: Elections Raise Hopes For More International Aid

  • Robert McMahon --> The high turnout of Iraqi voters in elections Sunday has brought prompt offers of assistance from the United Nations, European Union and NATO for Iraq's nation-building efforts. The United States and Britain expressed hope for a boost in aid for Iraq after two years of international divisions caused by the U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein. But security concerns are likely to limit immediate measures at helping Iraq's political and economic reconstruction.

United Nations, 1 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The results of its landmark elections are still days away, but Iraq is already receiving signals of support from some key organizations.

The United Nations, European Union, and NATO have renewed offers of assistance, citing the legitimacy conferred by the 30 January elections. They have offered hundreds of millions of dollars in aid as well as help in preparing a new constitution and training security forces and judges.

But amid the positive messages was the recognition that security problems will continue to complicate the country's reconstruction.

NATO has sent about 100 personnel to Baghdad to train senior officers but has had difficulty in getting enough instructors for an academy outside the capital. Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer yesterday talked about efforts both inside and outside the country.

"We have now the first phase of our training mission up and running. And you know we have more ambitions as far as training is concerned, setting up a training academy near Baghdad, and that's exactly what we're going to do. And I think apart from this in-country training, the out-of-country training in the NATO schools will also get a boost, certainly after these elections," de Hoop Scheffer said.
"More and more as the international community rallies behind this Iraq and a transitional government as a result of elections, I hope it will produce even greater support for Iraq and that will have to include economic development." -- British UN ambassador Emyr Jones Parry

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has offered further electoral assistance for year-end polls and help in preparing a new constitution. Security concerns have limited UN electoral staff to about 40 people in Iraq. They are also likely to limit the deployment of legal and political experts the UN has used to assist in drawing up constitutions from Namibia to East Timor in the past 15 years.

For the Iraqi elections, the UN team was largely confined to the Green Zone -- a fortified area within Baghdad. The UN ended up organizing many training sessions outside the country and relying on thousands of Iraqis to conduct the elections.

The 275-seat National Assembly to emerge from the election is responsible for writing up a new constitution, which would be put to a referendum in October. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said the UN is awaiting a request from Iraqi officials for help.

"We've offered advice to many emerging nations on constitution writing. It's something that the Security Council has authorized us to do should the Iraqis authorities ask us for that help. We would advise on all aspects of the constitution -- political rights, human rights," Eckhard said.

The UN Security Council resolution last June that authorized the handover of power to interim Iraqi authorities also called for a special UN protection force. But just one country -- Fiji -- has provided a small security force for the UN.

Romania's UN ambassador, Mihnea Motoc, told RFE/RL his government has approved the deployment of a 100-person company to protect UN staff, subject to arrangements with the U.S.-led multinational force. Georgia has also offered hundreds of troops to protect UN staff.

On the other hand, Poland yesterday said it will reduce its force of 2,400 by one-third by the end of this month. Poland hopes to withdraw from the country by the end of the year.

British UN ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, whose country is the second-largest contributor to the force in Iraq, said outside the Security Council chamber there needs to be a greater global commitment to Iraq's development.

"More and more as the international community rallies behind this Iraq and a transitional government as a result of elections, I hope it will produce even greater support for Iraq and that will have to include economic development," Jones Parry said.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters yesterday he didn't expect to see a "radical shift" in contributions from European countries. He said Washington hoped the relatively high turnout of Iraqi voters would inspire more international support.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso confirmed support for an additional $260 million in aid for Iraqi reconstruction this year. The European Union also expects to approve by 22 February a program to train more than 700 Iraqi police officers and judges per year.

[For news, background, and analysis on Iraq's historic 30 January elections, see RFE/RL's webpage "Iraq Votes 2005".]