Bush praises $13 billion for Iraq as step forward

President silent on how U.S. will get rest of funds to help stabilize country

October 26, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - President Bush said yesterday that the money pledged last week by other countries and international financial institutions to rebuild Iraq would enable the United States "to build on the success" of the military operations there.

A day after the United States won commitments for $13 billion in grants and loans to Iraq at a donors' conference in Madrid, Spain, Bush said there "is still difficult work ahead because freedom has enemies in Iraq."

But in his weekly radio address, the president cast the outcome of the donors' conference as step forward in rallying international military and financial assistance for the U.S.-led effort to bring stability to Iraq.

Bush pointed out that the pledges of financial aid had come after the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution this month endorsing a multinational military force in Iraq under U.S. command.

"This growing financial support will allow us to build on the success of the broad military coalition already serving in Iraq," he said.

Bush did not mention the difficulty the United States is having persuading other nations to send troops to Iraq.

Only Turkey has indicated a willingness to offer military support to take some of the burden off the 130,000 U.S. troops in the region. But Turkish officials have begun to back away from their initial readiness, and the Iraqi Governing Council has made clear that it does not favor the presence of Turkish troops in Iraq.

Likewise, Bush did not address whether or how the White House would try to make up the difference between its estimate that Iraq would need $55 billion for reconstruction in coming years and the amount pledged so far - $20 billion from the United States and the $13 billion from donors at the conference.

U.S. officials have said the amounts pledged at the Madrid conference may grow by as much as $4 billion, but even that would make a total of $37 billion, which is still $18 billion short of the estimated need.

Democrats renewed their attack on Bush's handling of the war and its aftermath.

"As we are seeing right now at the conference on Iraq in Spain, we are having to shoulder more than our share of the risks to our troops and the costs of the war and its aftermath," Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont said in his party's radio address yesterday.

"That's because the White House squandered the reservoir of the world's good will that we had immediately after Sept. 11," Leahy said. "If we are going to succeed in rebuilding Iraq, we need to build a real coalition, based on respect for our allies, to share the burden."

Pentagon officials hope to reduce the U.S. military presence in Iraq to about 100,000 troops by spring.

But with U.S. forces facing what military officials have said are increasingly coordinated attacks and no assurance that other nations will send large numbers of soldiers, the Pentagon is planning for the possibility that the United States will have to provide the overwhelming majority of the occupying troops indefinitely.

Among the possibilities under consideration are rotating regular Army troops back to Iraq more quickly than originally planned or sending Marine units there for extended deployments.

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