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Iraq: Brussels Conference Is All Support, Little Action

  • Kathleen Ridolfo --> De Hoop Scheffer (file photo) The 22 June Iraq donors conference in Brussels achieved what participants hoped it would in terms of drumming up support for Iraq's transitional phase. Though participants voiced overwhelming support for the transitional government, few new commitments were made. The overwhelming phrase echoed by some 80 nations and international organizations was "We will do more, when the security situation allows it."

Iraqi officials said prior to the conference that they would not seek new donor pledges, but rather would call on donors to follow-through with some $33 billion pledged at the 2003 donor conference in Madrid. What they heard at the conference from donor states was a run-down of commitments already made, while foreign ministers said little about delivery of outstanding pledges.

New pledges are expected to come at the 17-18 July donor conference in Amman, Jordan. While high expectations have been set for the conference -- based on statements made in Brussels -- little change can be expected from donor states in the near term.
Lavrov contended that Russia's write-off of Iraqi debt is the "maximum debt relief as compared to other foreign creditors."

The most promising support came from the European Union and its member states. In his opening remarks, EU Council President Jean Asselborn said the EU was "determined to fully support Iraqi efforts," adding that he expected that "concrete commitments can be confirmed officially" in Amman.

The EU confirmed in Brussels it's 21 February pledge to meet an Iraqi request to provide further support to the political and constitutional process through the EU Rule of Law Mission. The mission, which will include the training of 770 Iraqi officials, including judges, police, and prison officers, will be launched on 1 July, EU High Representative Javier Solana told conference participants.

EU members France and Germany said they would offer a further cancellation of Iraq's debts, German media reported on 23 June. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that Germany was prepared to offer further assistance in the democratization of Iraq, but only if the security environment there improved.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer asked donor states to make further contributions to the alliance's trust fund for Iraq, and pleaded with states who have not already contributed to do so ( De Hoop Scheffer also asked states who are contributing military training and assistance to consider coordinating it through the NATO Training and Equipment Coordination Group.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pledged his country's readiness to contribute to Iraq's political, economic, and security development, but did not offer specifics except to say that Moscow "may take part in international efforts to prepare a new democratic constitution of Iraq under the UN auspices." Lavrov contended that Russia's write-off of Iraqi debt is the "maximum debt relief as compared to other foreign creditors," ITAR-TASS reported on 22 June.

Arab states pledged little more than moral support at the conference. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Sa'ud al-Faysal bin Abd al-Aziz al-Sa'ud stressed the need for Iraq to make more progress in the political arena. "We believe further that the international community has a responsibility and a role to play in bringing Iraq back to normalcy. However, we firmly believe that as a matter of priority the issue is mainly political. A political stable environment must be established as a prerequisite to achieve the goals set by this conference," he said.

Prince Sa'ud also voiced his country's readiness to enter into talks with the Iraqi government on debt relief, and highlighted the $1 billion offered by the kingdom at the 2003 Madrid conference for reconstruction efforts in the form of soft loans and by financing and guaranteeing Saudi exports to Iraq. Some 300 million riyals (about $80 million) has already been delivered to Iraq through humanitarian assistance, he said.

Jordan and Egypt both responded to an Iraqi plea that all states reestablish ministries in Iraq, and pledged to send ambassadors to Baghdad "soon." Jordanian Foreign Minister Faruq Qasrawi said his country is ready to extend "every necessary assistance" to help Iraq achieve its objectives, state news agency Petra reported on 22 June.

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Muhammad al-Sabah underscored his country's commitment to aiding reconstruction in the health, education, and power sectors in the amount of $440 million in soft loans and another $125 million in grants. "Progress of the political process requires parallel reconstruction and building what was destroyed by the former regime due to its aggressive policies," al-Sabah told the conference.

Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara voiced Syria's readiness to cooperate on the security front, while blaming "a party" for obstructing his country's ability to do so by preventing Syria from getting the needed technology to secure its borders, SANA reported on 22 June. The comment was aimed at the United States, which he said directs accusations against Syria. The U.K. is currently reviewing a request by Syria for night-vision equipment. It is unclear whether the sale would be approved. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice singled out Syria at the conference by calling on it to "live up to its responsibilities" in preventing insurgents from crossing its borders into Iraq.

Turkey and Iran both said they were pursuing an active diplomacy with Iraq regarding their contributions to reconstruction.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari and his delegation headed to Washington following the Brussels conference for meetings with U.S. President George W. Bush and other high-level officials. The prime minister has also accepted an invitation by Faruq al-Shara to visit Syria, which al-Ja'fari contends would help ease tensions between the two states.

See also:

Iraq To Call On Donor States To Follow Through