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Iraq Says It Does Not Need U.S. Financial Aid

Ali al-Dabbagh: "I think we have enough money"
NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) -- Iraq does not need any financial aid from the United States, the government spokesman has said, in the wake of criticism from some U.S. politicians that Washington is paying too much toward Iraq's reconstruction.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, U.S. taxpayers have paid $48 billion for stabilization and reconstruction in Iraq, a congressional report said last month, adding Baghdad had spent little of its growing oil revenues on rebuilding infrastructure.

"I think we are in a position now not to ask for financial aid from anybody, even the United States," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told Reuters at the weekend in the holy Shi'ite city of Al-Najaf. "I think we have enough money to spend and we are not in need of any money in the future."

Al-Dabbagh said what Iraq needed from the United States and other countries was help in building technical expertise and training, especially since the country's legal and technological framework needed updating after decades of neglect.

Iraq, which sits on the world's third-largest proven oil reserves, has reaped the benefits of soaring oil prices, but violence and an outdated bureaucracy have hampered efforts to spend its money effectively.

Doing Its Best

Government ministries have made minimal outlays for reconstruction, according to the August report from the Government Accountability Office, a U.S. congressional watchdog.

Criticism of Iraq's spending has been sharp from some U.S. politicians as Americans struggle to pay for high petrol prices.

Al-Dabbagh said the government was doing its best.

"I think it is unrealistic that somebody is sitting there in Washington, and is talking without understanding the difficulties we have on the ground," al-Dabbagh said.

Five years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, most Iraqis still live without a reliable electricity supply, and many without access to clean water or sanitation.

Iraq's outdated legal framework for attracting and handling contractors needed to execute reconstruction projects is in major need of an overhaul, al-Dabbagh said.

"We are facing a lack of technical know-how.... That is what we need from the United States, the European community," he said.

Al-Dabbagh said he believed the government would be able to spend 75 percent of its $48 billion routine budget this year, up from about 63-64 percent last year.

On top of that, parliament last month approved the government's request for a $21 billion supplementary budget to spend on basic services and reconstruction.

Al-Dabbagh pointed to the supplementary budget as proof Iraq was trying to spend more of its money.

The war in Iraq, where the United States has about 146,000 troops, is a major issue in the campaign for U.S. presidential and congressional elections on November 4, along with the flagging economy, a housing crisis and the price of gas.

RFE/RL Iraq Report

RFE/RL Iraq Report

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