U.S. campaigns for Arab money to rebuild Iraq

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The United States has launched a campaign to woo Arab allies to contribute billions of dollars to a fund to rebuild Iraq.

U.S. officials said the effort launched by the Bush administration plans to target Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states. They said the U.S. proposal has been raised with several Arab leaders.

"We would like either military contributions or fiscal contributions from our allies," a U.S. official said. "We believe that our Arab friends would be more comfortable with helping rebuild Iraq through financial aid."

The U.S. campaign will be the focus of a tour by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Armitage plans to leave for the Middle East on Wednesday for a six-day tour that will take him to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Middle East Newsline reported.

Officials said Armitage intends to obtain Arab financial commitments ahead of a U.S.-sponsored conference to reconstruct Iraq. The parley has been scheduled for Oct. 15 in Madrid and 50 countries have agreed to participate.

Armitage plans to woo the UAE by also presenting a version of a plan issued by Abu Dhabi in early 2003. The plan, released before the U.S.-led war in March, called for a pan-Arab force that would take responsibility for Iraq as part of an agreement by Saddam Hussein to enter exile. Saddam rejected the UAE plan.

The U.S. version of the UAE proposal calls for a pan-Arab force to deploy in Iraq. The plan calls for the force to be under the authority of the U.S.-led coalition but come under Arab League sponsorship.

Armitage also plans to visit Cairo and meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak has been the leading U.S. ally in the Middle East to oppose the American military presence in Iraq and refuse Egyptian participation in efforts to stabilize Iraq.

Mubarak was said to have rejected a request by President George Bush to send Egyptian troops to Iraq. The request was relayed by Bush during his meeting with Mubarak at the June 3 Sharm e-Sheik conference.

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