WASHINGTON – The United States will ask countries attending a donors' conference for Iraq to "reach deeply" in making pledges and will discuss investment opportunities with private companies from around the world, the Bush administration said Friday.
Administration officials briefing reporters on the Oct. 23-24 meetings in Madrid, Spain, said they were not discouraged that pledges from other countries announced so far have fallen far short of the roughly $55 billion that the United States and the World Bank have estimated will be needed to rebuild the country over the next four years.
Japan is pledging $1.5 billion, Britain has offered $900 million, the European Commission has pledged $230 million and Spain on Friday said it would provide $300 million for Iraq reconstruction through 2007.
In addition, the World Bank has said it could provide as much as $4 billion in loans through 2005 and the International Monetary Fund (search) has indicated it is also prepared to supply loans to help Iraq's devastated economy recover.
By comparison, the Bush administration is asking Congress to approve $20 billion for Iraq reconstruction as part of its request for $87 billion to support U.S. activities in Iraq and Afghanistan next year. The Senate approved an amendment Thursday that would convert half that amount from grants to loans.
John Taylor, Treasury's undersecretary for international affairs, said Friday that the administration fully expects other countries to present commitments during next week's conference, but he refused to reveal a target the administration wants to reach.
"We will ask people to contribute as much as they can and to reach deeply. This is an issue which will make a huge difference for the world, for the war against terrorism," Taylor said. "There is a huge benefit for every country to participate big."
Taylor said the unanimous passage by the U.N. Security Council on Thursday of a U.S.-sponsored resolution appealing for other countries to provide troops and money would help.
The Madrid conference, to be led by Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) and Treasury Secretary John Snow (search), will also feature discussions with executives from private companies interested in making investments in Iraq.
Commerce Secretary Don Evans (search) said Friday that 20 U.S. companies would attend that portion of the conference, and companies from more than 50 other nations were expected to participate as well.
"This is a small part of the effort to get information out to the rest of the world about the investment opportunities that exist," said Evans, who arrived back in Washington on Friday after a six-day trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.