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Iraq: European Commission Proposes Aid Strategy

Brussels, 9 June 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The European Commission today proposed a new framework for the development of relations with Iraq.

The proposal, which will need to be formally endorsed by EU member states, outlines the bloc's objectives for the medium term.

"The paper proposes three medium-term objectives for developing our relations with Iraq,” said Chris Patten, the EU's external-relations commissioner. “First, the development of a secure, stable, and democratic Iraq. Second, the establishment of an open, sustainable, and diversified market economy. And third, Iraq's economic and political integration into its region and the international community."

The document does not allocate any extra funds for Iraq above the 1.25 billion euros pledged by the commission and EU member states at the Madrid donors conference earlier this year.

However, Patten said extra funds, know-how, and increased political dialogue will all be on offer as Iraq progresses, first, to the handover of sovereignty on 30 June, then to provisional elections in January, and finally to fully democratic elections before the end of 2005.

Patten said that by adopting the proposal, the EU is sending a political message that it is willing to engage with the new Iraqi authorities, as well as providing a basis for the first discussions. He said the EU does not need to renew its recognition of Iraq as a state.

Patten also said he hopes to visit Iraq before his term expires in October, as well as welcome Iraqi representatives in Brussels.

Presenting the strategy, Patten said the EU must be ready to review its engagement in Iraq in the light of developments on the ground. He particularly highlighted the unstable security situation. Other, wider EU concerns include a wish to see the UN secure a central role, the rapid transfer of full sovereignty, and the country's long-term stability.

Patten said the credibility and legitimacy of the interim government are paramount.

"What will matter will be how the new government is perceived, whether it is independent or controlled by the coalition, whether it is seen as a neutral arbiter to prepare elections, or whether it is seen as one that entrenches the interests of particular communities and individuals," Patten said.

Patten praised the way that yesterday's UN Security Council resolution was negotiated, noting the willingness of the United States to compromise.

Patten stressed that the United States and its partners have an important role to play in entrenching the authority of the interim government and the United Nations in Iraq.

"I hope that the United States -- like all others who support this UN Security Council resolution -- will be doing everything possible in Iraq," Patten said. "First of all, to sustain and build up the authority and the credibility of the interim government, which has a difficult task, but one which we should all try to help them with. I hope that they will also be able to ensure that the authority of the United Nations, particularly as we prepare for elections in January, is as firmly based as possible."

Patten said the months in the run-up to the elections will be "extremely difficult." He predicted further violence, saying reconstruction efforts as well as moderate leaders are particularly likely to become targets.

"What's going to be crucial is the ability of moderate leaders of the three communities in Iraq to develop their own political authority and standing, so that they can see off, so that they can resist, pressures from the extremists, because if the extremists win, then the consequences for Iraq are pretty unpleasant," Patten said.

Patten said that in the longer term, the EU expects to sign a trade and cooperation agreement with Iraq, offering lucrative trade concessions. A similar agreement was recently signed with Yemen. One was in the process of being negotiated with Iran until talks were suspended last year over suspicions of nuclear misconduct.

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