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Iraqi official says donations will help
( 2003-10-23 15:22) (Agencies)

Iraq will rise from the ashes of sanctions, war and violence with help from international donations, said a top Iraqi official.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Dr. Adnan Pachachi Iraq's foreign minister before Saddam Hussein seized power in 1968 and now a prominent member of the U.S.-named Governing Council said donations would speed the process of restoring Iraq's sovereignty and stabilizing the country.

"Obviously, the precarious security situation does not encourage people to put money into Iraq," the 80-year-old Pachachi said on the eve of a donors conference for rebuilding Iraq.

"But an improvement in the economic situation will also improve the security situation. People have to have some faith. I believe Iraq will rise from the ashes," he said.

Part of Iraq's woes stem from 12 years of U.N. economic sanctions imposed after Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait in 1990. The United Nations lifted the sanctions in May.

Pachachi emphasized that the daily insurgent attacks rocking Iraq and deterring donations have targeted mainly U.S. troops.

"Iraqis have not fought each other since the fall of the regime. Iraqis have been living in peaceful harmony," said Pachachi. "It makes me optimistic that the time has come for Iraq to practice democracy."

But Iraq, he said, needs an initial injection of capital that would improve Iraqi living conditions. He did not give a figure of how much he hoped the conference would raise.

Iraq is estimated to need $36 billion to rebuild 14 vital sectors, including infrastructure, water, electricity, education and health in addition to $20 billion that the United States says it will spend on the oil sector and security.

Besides serving as Iraq's foreign minister before Saddam took power in 1968, Pachachi was twice permanent representative to the United Nations.

The Western-educated politician, one of the Council's rotating presidents, also heads the Movement of Independent Iraqi Democrats, which seeks a strong U.N. role in helping Iraq build a democratic government. He will be one of the Council's speakers during the donors conference.

Pachachi denied that donations would be controlled by the United States, which is a widespread concern among potential donors. He pointed to a new trust fund to be managed by the United Nations, the World Bank and the Governing Council. The Council, he said, would not pander to U.S. interests.

"We are not a rubber-stamp group. We will be asserting our role and our independence progressively as time goes on."

The conference is likely to fall well short of the money needed to rebuild Iraq.

But Pachachi said it would provide a useful forum to begin negotiating with countries such as Germany and France so far refusing to pledge aid.

"I don't think this is their final decision. After all, they supported the U.N. resolution to rebuild Iraq," he said of the adopted last Thursday. "We will try to work with them. We want to know what their objections are, what their conditions are, and let us see if we can meet them."

Iraq will solicit foreign investment at a private sector conference held parallel to the donor conference, and Pachachi said the Council should have a say in approving foreign contracts to protect national interests.

"We welcome capital that will provide work for Iraqis and invigorate Iraq's economy. But we have to treat foreign investment with caution because we don't want to invite capital at the expense of the important national interests and of Iraqi citizens," Pachachi said.

Recent U.S.-approved economic reforms in Iraq allow foreign investors in Iraq 100-percent ownership of companies in all sectors except oil. They can also repatriate all profits.

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