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U.N. Predicts Iraq Reconstruction Will Cost Additional $36 Billion

By Steven R. Weisman

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

A team of economic specialists led by the World Bank and the United Nations has determined that Iraq needs $36 billion for reconstruction over the next four years. This would be in addition to a separate assessment by the American-led occupation of $19 billion for a different set of needs in Iraq over the same period, diplomats and economists said Wednesday.

The latest calculation brings to $55 billion the amount that experts say Iraq needs to rebuild everything from health care to infrastructure to agriculture and training of police and other security personnel, the officials said.

Both assessments -- not to be confused with the Bush administration’s current request before Congress of $20 billion in non-military aid -- were prepared ahead of a donors conference scheduled for Oct. 23-24 in Madrid, Spain, which Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other top American officials are expected to attend.

These larger numbers have begun to circulate even as American officials admit they are having trouble getting promises for much more than $1 billion at Madrid. But the Bush administration is seeking approval of a U.N. Security Council resolution, a new draft of which it circulated Wednesday, that it hopes will encourage more donations.

Many in Congress, meanwhile, are balking at the administration’s request for $20 billion in non-military aid, $5 billion of it for training security personnel, saying that they are not clear on what exactly is needed now or in the next few years. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill complained on Wednesday that they had been given too sparse an accounting of what happened to the $79 billion that Congress approved for Iraq and Afghanistan last April.

As the debate opened in the Senate on Wednesday on the administration’s current $87 billion spending request for the two countries, Senators said they expected dozens of amendments that would add new reporting requirements and audits.

Also likely are amendments to bar noncompetitive bidding on contracts like the one that was awarded to Halliburton Co., where Vice President Dick Cheney served as chairman before joining the Bush campaign in 2000.

While Congress began to grapple with the administration over its spending request, American, European, Japanese and Arab envoys met in Madrid Wednesday to make their own assessment of Iraq’s needs. This separate assessment was confirmed by knowledgeable officials this evening as some numbers began to leak out.

According to these officials, Iraq’s needs in 14 sectors -- including health, education, water and electricity -- come to $9.3 billion for 2004 and another $26.3 billion over the following three years, for a total of nearly $36 billion through 2007.

Separately, the officials said that the Bush administration had come up with its own list of needs in areas like the oil industry and security, which are not covered by the United Nations and World Bank assessments. The American assessment comes to $19 billion.

It was not clear this evening what part of the $55 billion would be met by the United States and what part would be met by international donors.

But many officials say that the early hope for billions of dollars from wealthy countries is fading rapidly.