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Iraq: Bush Speaks With Leaders Of France, Germany, Russia About Reconstruction Contracts

Washington, 11 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The White House says U.S. President George W. Bush spoke with the leaders of Russia, France, and Germany about Washington's decision to bar firms based in countries that oppose the Iraq war from bidding on Iraqi reconstruction contracts. The countries voiced disappointment yesterday by the new policy, which shuts them out of bidding for more than $18 billion in rebuilding projects.

In a statement, the European Commission said it would examine the 26 contracts to determine whether they were in line with the commitments undertaken by the United States in the context of the World Trade Organization.

White House officials said French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the contracting issue during the telephone conversations.

The telephone calls were placed by Bush to discuss the possibility of reducing Iraq's debt to these countries. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan defended the administration's policy at a briefing yesterday.

"I think it's only appropriate that those countries that have been involved with the United States [in Iraq] from the beginning and the Iraqi people and those who are contributing forces to the efforts in Iraq would be the ones that would be eligible for the prime contracts funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars," McClellan said.

McClellan held out the possibility that the United States could reverse its policy if countries that previously opposed the Iraq war would decide to join the coalition.