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U.S. Drops Media Limits on Aid Groups in Iraq

Government-funded agencies balked at a request to clear their interaction in advance.

July 18, 2003|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has backed down from a request that nongovernmental organizations working with American aid money in Iraq get U.S. approval in advance for their contacts with the media, officials said Thursday.

Under an agreement reached last week, five NGOs working on a community action program will report their contacts with the media to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) after the event, a spokesman for one group said.

Two of the groups, Mercy Corps and Save the Children USA, had refused to sign agreements to discuss the contacts in advance. Some aid workers said they saw the request as an attempt by the Bush administration to use its financial clout to make the groups serve U.S. foreign policy in Iraq.

"We offered substitute language and [USAID] accepted it," said Mike Kiernan, spokesman for Save the Children USA.

A spokesman for USAID confirmed the agreement but said both sides had given ground.

"They did not want to have language like this at all in the agreement. We came to compromise on the language," said the spokesman, who asked not to be named.

Kiernan said his organization and the four others would receive initial grants of $7 million each for the program, which aims to help Iraqis have a say in health, education, sanitation and water projects.

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