France, Germany: No More Money for Iraq

France and Germany said Wednesday they won't give any more money toward Iraq even as American officials exhorted countries to open their pocketbooks, trying to parlay a hard-won U.N. resolution into billions of dollars in aid pledges.

The United States is trying to drum up $36 billion in donations from more than 70 countries gathering Thursday and Friday in Madrid, but that means winning over nations that thought the Iraq war was a bad idea to begin with.

"We don't foresee any additional aid at this stage — either in terms of financial aid or in cooperation in the military domain," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin (search) said.

Germany's development minister cited her country's own budget woes and said it simply cannot afford to give more than the $224 million it is already contributing.

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (search) also said she was against forgiving Iraq's debt, saying such an oil-rich country could easily pay them off. Iraq owes Germany roughly $4.6 billion.

She underlined Germany's position by staying away from the Madrid conference herself and sending a deputy.

U.S. officials downplayed the continuing violence in Iraq and focused on securing economic aid.

"What's important at the moment is that the economy be jump-started, because it's flat on its back," John Negroponte (search), the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a TV interview.

He praised countries that have already promised money. Japan has pledged $1.5 billion for 2004; South Korea has agreed to $200 million, and Canada, $150 million. The World Bank has said it will lend Iraq up to $3-5 billion over the coming five years.

Spain and Britain — both firm supporters of the war — pledged $300 million through 2007 and $439 million for 2004-2005, respectively. The European Union, which includes France and Germany, has limited its contribution for Iraq to one year, promising $233 million.

Germany's contributions include $58 million for direct emergency and humanitarian aid, about $27.4 million for training and supporting Iraqi police, and contributions to EU aid and World Bank loans.

The U.S. Congress is also considering its own $20 billion package, which will go toward security in Iraq and resurrecting its oil industry.

Kuwait, Iraq's neighbor, will offer "generous aid" in addition to the $900 million it has already spent on humanitarian projects, Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheik Mohammed Sabah Al Salem Al Sabah said Wednesday.

The United States also wants foreign troops to help subdue pro-Saddam guerrillas, but for now is concentrating on getting support for less controversial work like rebuilding electrical lines, oil wells and businesses.

Its biggest selling point is a U.N. Security Council resolution passed 15-0 last week. It urges international help for Iraq and establishes a multinational force under U.S. command in Iraq.

"The Security Council took a unanimous decision and it will make it easier for (countries) to donate," said Mahmoud Othman, a Sunni Kurd member of Iraq's U.S.-backed Governing Council. "We want from the conference as much as we can get."

Spurred by the Security Council vote, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan arrived in Madrid before dawn Wednesday in preparation for giving the opening address at the conference on Thursday. Later Wednesday he was to meet with Spanish Prime Jose Maria Aznar.

On Tuesday, the EU's external affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, said they were right to be cautious.

"A lot of the criticism we've heard about policy in Iraq has clearly been motivated by good sense," he said.

Patten, who administers the EU's foreign aid budget, said he was satisfied with its proposed $233 million contribution, noting it was about the same the European bloc spent in Afghanistan in the first year after the U.S.-led war that toppled the Taliban.

He said he would go back to EU governments in March, "by which time we'll know more about the security situation, more about the real needs," to discuss proposals for further assistance.

"But what if between now and then the security situation is making it difficult for us to spend the money?" he said, noting that he "would be an awful fool" if he asked for more funds than he could spend.

Russia is sending a deputy minister and says its main goal is to ensure that contracts signed under Saddam Hussein's regime are honored and to explore new ones.

Separate from the conference, representatives from 225 companies and several business associations from around the world will meet with Iraqi officials to discuss investment opportunities.

The first day of the conference will feature largely technical discussions on Iraq's needs in areas such as education, health and its electrical grid. The formal pledges will come Friday.