- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2003

From combined dispatches

MADRID — France led a trio of nations yesterday in criticizing Washington’s reluctance to set a clear timetable for handing over power to Iraqis as a tally of postwar aid for the country soared to tens of billions of dollars.

Germany and Russia — which joined hands with Paris in opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq — also stood aside from the mounting excitement at a donors’ conference in Madrid, pledging no additional funding for reconstruction.

The negative stance of France and Germany drew unusual and sharp criticism from Belgium, which has, in the past, joined the two in opposing the Iraq war.

“I find it a shame that France and Germany have stuck to their positions,” Development Cooperation Minister Marc Verwilghen told Belgian reporters at the conference.

“I deplore the fact that certain countries have come here to restate their position [against the war]. Iraqis are confronted with immediate needs. Such an attitude does nothing for the Iraqi people,” the Belga news agency quoted Mr. Verwilghen as saying.

France, Germany and Russia agreed grudgingly last week to back a United Nations Security Council resolution that sets up a multinational force under its control and asks nations to contribute both troops and cash.

They had sought a resolution laying out a clear path for ending coalition presence and a bigger role for the United Nations in supervising Iraq’s transition to a sovereign government.

“France had suggested a political approach based on the necessary starting point: affirmation of the principle of sovereignty and self-determination for the Iraqi people,” French Trade Minister Francois Loos said at the Madrid conference.

“This approach could have created conditions for a greater effort by the international community to open the way for reconstruction and stabilization.”

Some of the more than 70 countries represented in Madrid sent foreign ministers, but not France, Germany or Russia.

Paris and Berlin are contributing heavily to a pledge of $236 million from the European Union’s budget. But some of their European partners, like Britain, Spain and Italy, brought much heftier bilateral pledges to Madrid.

The Belgian government said it would donate up to $5.9 million for Iraq’s reconstruction via the United Nations.

Both France and Germany said they were providing humanitarian aid on a large scale.

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