Posted by Jeff from d53-152-230.try.wideopenwest.com (18.104.22.168) on Saturday, April 12, 2003 at 10:42AM :
World Finance Officials Discuss Iraq Aid
1 hour, 36 minutes ago
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By HARRY DUNPHY, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Finance officials from the seven richest industrial countries tried Saturday to settle differences that threaten to delay reconstruction efforts in Iraq (news - web sites).
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U.S. allies in Europe gave no indication they planned to drop their demand that the United Nations (news - web sites) play a central role in that effort.
Finance ministers and central bank presidents from the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada began their talks over breakfast at Blair House, the official U.S. guest residence across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.
U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow and Federal Reserve (news - web sites) Chairman Alan Greenspan (news - web sites), who were leading the discussions, declined comment as they arrived, as did British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.
Security was tight. Limousines were stopped and their trunks checked by bomb-sniffing dogs before officials arrived at Blair House.
Police extended the security perimeter around Blair House and the International Monetary Fund (news - web sites) and World Bank (news - web sites) headquarters, a few blocks from the White House. Those institutions' spring meetings were to start after the Group of Seven discussions ended at midday.
Downtown streets were quiet. Most of the activity at police roadblocks consisted of confused tourists asking for directions to alternate routes around blocked streets. Antiwar protesters planned a march later Saturday.
The Bush administration wanted the weekend finance meetings to result in a deal that would send fact-finding missions to Iraq to assess reconstruction needs under a U.S.-led interim government.
But France, Germany and Russia, all opponents of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein (news - web sites), said they could not support any effort to begin a rebuilding program that was not led by the United Nations.
Those nations argue that any effort to establish a lasting peace in Iraq has a better chance of success with the full backing of the international community through the United Nations.
Reviving Iraq's crippled economy and stimulating a sluggish global recovery were the main topics at the IMF-World Bank meetings.
Snow, previewing the discussions, said he realizes the finance officials cannot resolve all the issues. But he wants "a substantial conversation about how our nations and international organizations can work together to help the Iraq people recover" from "25 years of economic misrule and mismanagement."
One of the ideas he is discussing is forgiveness of billions of dollars in debt Iraq owes, much of it to Russia, France and Germany.
Snow met separately with finance officials from Russia, France, Japan, Brazil and other nations on Friday.
Snow and French Finance Minister Francis Mer discussed the need for the international community to reach agreement on the reconstruction issues whatever the positions of individual countries on the war, said a Treasury official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
The official said Snow and Japanese Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa agreed with President Bush (news - web sites)'s position that the United Nations has a vital role to play along with bilateral donors and international financial institutions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (news - web sites) met on Friday in St. Petersburg, Russia, with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to discuss Iraq and other issues.
Schroeder said the United Nations "must take charge of postwar reconstruction." That position was also endorsed on Friday in a communique issued by the IMF's Group of 24 finance ministers who represent developing countries.
World Bank President James Wolfensohn and IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler have said they would not begin efforts to help Iraq with either technical assistance or the multibillion-dollar loans that will be required until receiving the go-ahead from their boards. That would require the United States to change a number of votes to get approval for loans under a U.S. rebuilding effort.
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