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U.N. Official: U.S. Needs U.N. Help to Rebuild Post-War Iraq

By Colum Lynch
THE WASHINGTON POST -- united nations

A senior U.N. relief official said Thursday that the overwhelming financial and political costs of rebuilding Iraq after the war would force the United States to eventually grant the United Nations and the international community a broader hand in shaping the country’s future.

Mark Malloch Brown, the administrator of the U.N. Development Program, said Iraq’s oil earnings would be woefully inadequate to fund a reconstruction bill that experts say could reach as high as $100 billion. He also said the persistence of armed opposition to coalition forces could severely limit the capacity of U.S. authorities and companies to work in large sections of the country are not pacified.

“We may face a situation where the American humanitarian writ after a possible fall of the government is not as universal as presently assumed,” Malloch Brown said. “It does not yet seem entirely clear to us that ... there will be clear U.S. control of all the territory of Iraq. The United States as [a] belligerent party will not have easy access to significant parts of the country.”

The remarks came as Secretary of State Colin Powell indicated Thursday that the United Nations would play an important but subordinate role in managing the postwar reconstruction of Iraq. The U.N. officials’ comments reflect mounting frustration over U.S. plans to organize a largely American-led government-in-waiting to govern Iraq until new Iraq leaders can be identified to rule the country.

The move is likely to complicate efforts by Washington’s closest allies, Britain and Australia, to unify the Security Council around a common reconstruction plan for Iraq. Australia’s foreign minister, Alexander Downer, told reporters after a meeting with Secretary General Kofi Annan SM ’72 that the council should overcome its differences and “support postwar Iraq.”

Downer said the reconstruction of Iraq provides an opportunity “for some reconciliation and healing in the Security Council.”