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Iraq: EU Encourages Transitional Iraqi Government To Specify Aid Needs

  • Ahto Lobjakas

EU headquarters in Brussels The European Commission today welcomed the formation of a new transitional government in Iraq. EU officials said the bloc is standing by to respond to requests for assistance from the country's first elected government in decades. EU assistance is likely to include political support, money, and expertise in various areas of political and economic transition.

Brussels, 28 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- In a written statement issued in Brussels today, the EU commissioner for external relations, Benita Ferrero Waldner, said she is "delighted" a government is in place after lengthy negotiations.

Ferrero Waldner's spokeswoman, Emma Udwin, told reporters at EU headquarters that the bloc is now keen for the new government to consider the various offers of assistance made over the past year.

"We have said that we want to be an important partner for Iraq," Udwin said. "There are a number of offers that the EU has made to Iraq that we have been waiting to be able to discuss with the new authority and to be able to keep those promises."

The EU, together with the United States and Japan, spearhead a global initiative to hold an international conference for Iraq in Brussels in the final days of June. But organizers are still awaiting the formal agreement of the new Iraqi government to attend.

Udwin said the conference will provide an opportunity for Iraq to set its own priorities.

"We're proposing that it should be an occasion for them to set out to the international community what their priorities are for reconstruction, for rule of law, how we can support the transition further, also the political transition," Udwin said.

An EU official told RFE/RL privately that the conference is not intended for donors to pledge new funds. The official said an important function of the gathering will be the opportunity it will provide the international community "to stand up and be counted" as supporters of the democratic transition in Iraq.
The EU, together with the United States and Japan, spearhead a global initiative to hold an international conference for Iraq in Brussels in the final days of June. But organizers are still awaiting the formal agreement of the new Iraqi government to attend.


Udwin said a second field where the EU has offered assistance concerns the drawing up of a new constitution. She said the bloc is already in talks with the United Nations on the issue, but before further steps can be taken, Iraq must indicate what and how it wants the EU to contribute to the process.

The third element in EU assistance plans is money. The bloc has pledged 200 million euros ($258 million) for this year. Of these funds, 45 million euros remain unallocated. Udwin said today that the EU is waiting to hear what the new government would like to see the money spent on.

Udwin said an EU delegation expected to be headed by EU Foreign Policy and Security Chief Javier Solana is likely to travel to Iraq soon. She said the visit would be the first step in a political dialogue the EU hopes to develop with Iraq.

"We see [the visit] as an important step that could be taken to set us on the first steps down road towards normalizing the political relationship, to building up a political dialogue," Udwin said.

Udwin said the public would be given no advance notice of the date of the visit for security reasons.

Officials said the EU-Iraqi political dialogue will cover issues such as cooperation in the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Regional stability will also be high on the agenda.

It is expected that once the next government is elected under permanent arrangements provided by the new constitution, the EU will quickly initiate moves to sign a partnership agreement with Iraq.
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