Congress balks at U.S. paying for Iraq's postwar reconstruction WAR IN THE GULF

February 22, 1991|By Peter Osterlund | Peter Osterlund,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State James A. Baker III may dream of a U.S.-led reconstruction of a postwar Iraq, but Congress, it seems, will have none of it.

Earlier this month, Mr. Baker sketched his ideas for restoring war-ravaged economies in the Persian Gulf region, proposing a new Middle East Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He hastened to add that most of the reconstruction funds would come from oil-rich states and suggested that this assistance would depend on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's removal from power.

With the United States footing the bill for 20 percent of the cost of Iraq's military destruction, he said, "it is our conclusion that we should also be participants in the incremental economic expenses."

The secretary's comments, offered in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have encountered a cold reception on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers appear inclined to rule out any financial assistance to postwar Iraq under any conditions.

"I'm against the United States putting significant resources into the rebuilding of Iraq," House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash., said yesterday at a breakfast with reporters. "I don't think we're in a situation where we were at the end of World War II, where we controlled 50 percent of the world's output and we could provide 90 percent of the resources to undertake an international effort of this kind," Mr. Foley said.

Mr. Foley's comments were echoed by colleagues of both parties, in both houses of Congress.

Sen. Alan K. Simpson, R-Wyo., said that constituents have asked him repeatedly about the prospects for U.S. aid to postwar Iraq. "I don't think they're very enchanted by the idea," Mr. Simpson reported.

Similarly, Representative Bill Richardson, D-N.M., said the chances of any aid to Iraq were "zilch, zero, just on the basis of principle."

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