White House Pleased With Iraq Aid Pace

The Bush administration said Wednesday that it was pleased with the pace of worldwide aid to Iraq (search) and that donors were making good on their pledges no more slowly than in past fund-raising efforts for stricken countries.

Thirty-six countries other than the United States, along with international lending institutions, pledged $13.6 billion in grants and loans at a high-profile conference last October in Madrid. Only about $1 billion of the pledged amount has been deposited in World Bank (search) and U.N. funds for Iraq.

The United States pledged $18.4 billion, of which about $6 billion has been set aside for reconstruction of Iraq.

The slow pace of making good on pledges is not unusual, said Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman.

The rate is comparable to that of other postwar fund-raising efforts, he said. The one difference is that assisting Iraq is on a much bigger scale, Casey said.

And now that Iraq has an internationally recognized government, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (search) are discussing lending programs with Iraqi officials, Casey said.

Overall, the spokesman said, "the United States welcomes the progress that has been made in meeting commitments from the Madrid donors conference."

A number of countries have said they were waiting for the establishment of an Iraqi government, Edward S. Walker, president of the Middle East Institute, a private research center, said Tuesday.

An interim government took control in Baghdad two weeks ago, but Walker said he did not know if donors were waiting until Iraq held national elections in January.

"Some Arab leaders have told me they are waiting for a legitimate Iraqi government, without explaining what it meant," the former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel said in an interview. "These pledges are easier to make than to collect."

The United Nations and the World Bank set up funds late last year to channel the donations. The World Bank has $360 million deposited by nine countries and the European Commission and expects to reach $400 million by the end of the year, according to a World Bank official. There is approximately $600 million in the U.N. Fund.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have also pledged $5.5 billion in loans.