Bush rattles the beggar’s cup, but nations pledge only $13 billion for Iraq

By Noble Johns

Atlanta—(BNW)
If anything good can be said about Bush, it's that he has no shame (sic) and as a result, he has made America the laughingstock of the world as he and Colin Powell rattle the beggar’s cup around the world in an effort to get the world to pay for something the world begged those fools not to do in the first place.

Countries at the so-called donors' conference for Iraq pledged only $13 billion in grants and loans Friday to help in that nation's recovery, U.S. officials said. In other words, the American taxpayer will have to pay for following that fool into an unnecessary war.

Even if you include the $20 billion that the U.S. Congress has earmarked for reconstruction, the 13 billion falls far short of the more than $55 billion estimated necessary to rebuild the country.

In a statement, President Bush commended the participants of the two-day conference in Madrid, Spain, saying in part, "Today's success at the Iraq donors' conference marked significant progress for freedom in Iraq. I commend the 73 nations and 20 international organizations that are meeting the challenge of helping the Iraqi people recover from decades of oppression and build a better future.

"The world has a clear interest in a democratic Iraq because free nations do not breed the ideologies of terror. A free Iraq will serve as an example and an inspiration to advocates of reform and progress throughout the Middle East. And a free Iraq will be a source of stability and hope for that region."

Officials with various donor nations and agencies estimated that the amount pledged eventually would total $14 billion-$19 billion.

Conference officials acknowledged that they don't know how much of the aid will come in the form of cash grants and how much will be loans. Iraq and the United States have stated they prefer cash grants to loans.

The World Bank and United Nations estimate that rebuilding Iraq after decades of war, economic sanctions and misrule under Saddam Hussein will cost more than $55 billion over four years.

The U.S. Congress voted last week to spend $20 billion on reconstruction in Iraq, but the Senate bill, in defiance of President Bush's wishes, would require Iraq to repay $10 billion.

A senior Bush administration official said Friday that additional money needed to rebuild Iraq in the coming years could be acquired through additional international contributions and Iraqi oil revenues.

Besides the U.S. pledge, Japan offered the largest contribution.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi announced a $5 billion package, which includes a $1.5 billion grant for 2004 and $3.5 billion in loans through 2007.

Saudi Arabia said it will give $1 billion -- $500 million in export credits and $500 million in loans.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund said they will provide up to a combined $9.25 billion in loans.

World Bank President James Wolfensohn said his organization is prepared to offer between $3 billion and $5 billion to Iraq, based on some conditions, including security on the ground.

The IMF said its assistance could range from $2.5 billion to $4.25 billion over three years.

Generally, the low figure is used for calculation purposes when groups promise a range of cash, according to The Associated Press.

Not included in the $13 billion total are trade concessions, technical assistance and nonmonetary gifts such as Sri Lanka's promise of tea and Vietnam's pledge to give rice.

Ayad Allawi of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council called the pledges "outstanding."

Allawi said Iraq is a "rich nation made temporarily poor."

"The Iraqi people will remember who came forward to help us in our time of need," he said.

Allawi earlier had accused France and Germany, who led the opposition to the U.S.-led war that ousted Saddam, of neglecting Iraq at a crucial time.

Those two countries did not donate any money beyond their shares of the $236 million that the European Union has pledged. Contributions from individual member states have upped the 15-nation bloc's donation to $812 million.

Tough report expected on prewar intelligence

The Senate Intelligence Committee plans to issue a scathing report on U.S. intelligence efforts before the Iraq war, criticizing the process of documenting possible weapons of mass destruction, Senate sources said Friday.

The report will focus on the preparation of an October 2002 classified document called an NIE, or National Intelligence Estimate.

The Bush administration used this document as part of its justification for war.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said the intelligence was sometimes "sloppy" and inconclusive, according to an article Friday in The Washington Post.

But Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, the panel's ranking Democrat, said it is too early to draw any conclusions because the committee report has not been completed.

Senate sources said they were dismayed by how often the 2002 intelligence document appeared to rely on single-source or circumstantial evidence concerning Iraqi programs.

CIA officials said the panel's conclusions are premature. Although the document was produced in record time, agency spokesman Bill Harlow said that it "reflects 10 years of work" on Iraq's weapons programs.

CIA officials also cited the work of David Kay and his Iraq Survey Group, which continues to hunt for WMD.

Deaths in 2 attacks

Three U.S. soldiers were killed Friday in separate attacks in northern Iraq, U.S. military officials said.

Attackers fired two mortar rounds into a forward operating base for the 4th Infantry Division near Samarra, Maj. Josslyn Aberle said. Two soldiers were killed and four wounded, she said. Samarra is about 60 miles (96 kilometers) north of Baghdad.

The surviving soldiers have shrapnel wounds, Aberle said.

A quick reaction force set out after the attack and found a piece of the mortar but no sign of the attackers, she said.

In western Mosul, a soldier with the 101st Airborne Division was killed Friday in a small-arms attack, according to U.S. Central Command.

With the latest deaths, 347 U.S. troops have been killed since the Iraq war began in March, including 223 in hostile fire. President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1.

There is no reliable source for Iraqi civilian or combatant casualty figures, either during the period of major combat or after May 1. The Associated Press reported an estimated 3,240 civilian Iraqi deaths between March 20 and April 20, but the AP said that the figure was based on records of only half of Iraq's hospitals and the actual number was thought to be significantly higher.

Other developments

• British politician George Galloway, a member of Parliament who denounced Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair as "wolves'' during the Iraq war, was expelled Thursday from Blair's ruling Labor Party.

• Bush returned Friday to the White House after a whirlwind tour of Asia and Australia that focused on trade and security. During the six-nation tour, Bush attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Thailand, where leaders vowed to get tougher on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.




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