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Iraq Appeals for Help to Build a Democracy Amid an Insurgency

Interim leaders set out their political and economic development goals at aid conference.

June 23, 2005|Tyler Marshall | Times Staff Writer

BRUSSELS — Leaders of Iraq's transitional government appealed to a gathering of more than 80 nations and international organizations Wednesday for help to build a democratic state and defeat the virulent insurgency gripping the country.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari described battling the insurgency as "a struggle between the forces of good and evil."

"We must stand together against terrorism," Jafari told delegates to the session, which was co-sponsored by the United States and the European Union.

After a day of hearing Iraqi leaders set out their political and economic development goals, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: "Today, Iraq and the international community have turned a page together. We've promised each other we will be full partners in supporting Iraq."

Wednesday's meeting was the largest international gathering yet to address aid for Iraq, and the country's leaders used the forum to display their political diversity.

In addition to Jafari and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's delegation included the chairman of the constitutional drafting committee, the parliamentary speaker, members of the judiciary and representatives of opposition parties.

The meeting delivered a message the United States was eager to convey: that despite the violence that has slowed Iraq's development to a crawl and crippled normal life in many parts of the country, an elected government is at work, struggling to build a democratic state.

Although U.S. officials called the meeting an agenda-setting session rather than a donors conference, documents from the event indicated that 37 participants offered at least some help, including a modest pledge from Turkey to conduct seminars on democracy and public service training along with $120 million in EU assistance first made public earlier this month.

One document states that Saudi Arabia is prepared to help "ease [Iraq's] debt burden."

At a closing news conference, Zebari talked about "some positive responses" from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on the issue of debt relief, saying further discussions would probably be necessary.

A donors conference for Iraq is scheduled to be held in Amman, Jordan, next month. Nearly two years ago, donors at a conference in Madrid pledged $13 billion in aid to Iraq, but little of the money has been delivered. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged nations to pay up.

"The Iraqi people now need our help," she said in her closing remarks.

Rice repeated calls for Syria to prevent its territory from being used as a staging area for insurgents to launch attacks in Iraq and said that defeating terrorism in Iraq would break the back of international terrorism. She said that "when it is defeated in Iraq, at the heart of the Middle East, it will be a death knell for terrorism as we know it."

The EU's willingness to co-sponsor the meeting was viewed as a sign of thawing relations between the U.S. and some of its European allies. The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in effect split the Atlantic alliance.

Wednesday's meeting was especially important because insecurity in Iraq has largely isolated the new government from diplomatic contacts in its own capital. Only one Arab country, Egypt, maintains a full diplomatic presence in Baghdad. The Iraqis called on more countries Wednesday to establish missions in Iraq, but there appeared to be little interest.

Egypt announced that it intended to name a new ambassador, and Jordan said it planned to send an ambassador soon.

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