- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2005

BRUSSELS — More than 80 countries and international organizations pledged yesterday to help Iraq improve its security and revitalize its economy at a conference that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called a “watershed” moment for the Arab nation.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari asked for a program similar to the Marshall Plan that Germany benefited from after World War II, saying “the financial support given to the German people led Germany toward stability and security.”

“What our people want from you and all good people is what your people want from you,” Mr. al-Jaafari said. “The children of Iraq, like your children, do not want to be orphaned. Iraqi women, like women in your countries, do not want to be widowed.”

He also asked for more training of Iraqi security forces and urged countries to open embassies in Baghdad.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned that, “when you have a conference like this, the substantive [results] will not become clear for many months.”

Monetary pledges were not the goal of the Brussels conference, which was co-sponsored by the Unites States and the European Union, but participants endorsed the Iraqi delegation’s agenda, promising “efforts to achieve a democratic, pluralist, federal and unified Iraq.”

“We have jointly declared that we will work with Iraq to help meet the priorities and expectations of the Iraqi people. The people of Iraq have plenty of friends and we are determined not to let them down,” Mr. Annan said.

“I’m confident this will be a turning point in Iraq’s transition,” he said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also spoke of a “new chapter” for Iraq, telling the participants that “at some time in the histories of each and every country around this table, somebody had to help as other countries emerged from tyranny into democracy.”

At the same time, she said, “to maximize the financial benefits of assistance, the new Iraqi government must continue to improve security, liberalize its economy and open political space for all members of Iraqi society who reject violence.”

Jean Asselborn, who chaired yesterday’s session as foreign minister of Luxembourg — EU president for the first six months of the year — said the conference showed Iraqis that the international community is “on their side.”

“The differences over the war are behind us now,” he said. “We are all looking forward to the future.”

Many European countries, as well as Mr. Annan, opposed the U.S.-led war that ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003. U.S. officials said yesterday they appreciated Mr. Annan’s backing in Brussels.

“Kofi has been terrific,” a senior U.S. official said. “He’s been very supportive and his words today were very strong.”

Mr. Annan has faced strong criticism in recent days from members of the U.S. Congress over the Iraq oil-for-food program.

Miss Rice said the United Nations “critically will play a role here in Iraq over the next several months in helping the Iraqi people prepare for their historic elections for a permanent government at the end of the year.”

The delegates decided to hold a fundraising conference for Iraq in Amman, Jordan, on July 18 and 19. Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia said they would restore full diplomatic relations with Iraq and open embassies in Baghdad soon.

The United States and Syria exchanged accusatory words regarding the Iraq-Syria border.

Miss Rice said Damascus was not doing enough to prevent foreign terrorists from entering Iraq and helping the insurgency.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq Sharaa said his country was ready “to fully cooperate,” but the United States was getting in the way.

The “party that does not enable Syria to succeed in a better way to secure its border with Iraq is the same party that throws the strongest criticism at Syria and prevents Syria from attaining the equipment necessary to protect its long borders,” he said.

Miss Rice did not meet with Mr. Sharaa or with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, who also took part in the conference.

“Terrorism can be defeated in Iraq, it will be defeated in Iraq, and 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 secretary said.

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