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Rebuilding needs lower priority after wars--US State Dept

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK, Apr 8 (Reuters) The State Department in a draft planning document says the United States should not immediately begin a major rebuilding program after any future wars such as that in Iraq, The New York Times reported today.

The first priorities should instead be to establish a secure, stable environment and begin political reconciliation, the newspaper reported the planning document said.

Otherwise, officials said, Washington and any local government that is formed are likely to suffer major political repercussions by making promises that cannot be kept, the Times said.

The United States has spent more than billion on rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, but an unexpectedly large percentage had to be used to pay for security for people and projects, diverting funds earmarked for sewers, water treatment and other utilities.

''We set it up to fail,'' the Times quoted Andrew Natsios, who was director of the U.S. Agency for International Development until January, as saying of Iraq. Natsios and some White House and State Department officials said they argued early on that a large-scale reconstruction program could never succeed in a hostile environment, according to the newspaper.

''We certainly have not done as much as we originally had hoped for,'' James Jeffrey, the State Department's senior coordinator for Iraq, told the Times.

It quoted one unnamed senior official as saying there was a fear that the failures of the reconstruction program would pose a serious threat for officials of the new Iraqi government once it is formed. ''They will be vulnerable to complaints and hostility for their inability to provide electricity or clean water,'' the official said.

The former head of the Office for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the State Department, which prepared the new plan, said the problem was ''in part self-generated -- we came in and said we would restore the country, make it whole.'' The new plan would have the United States first establish public security and order, and then encourage small-scale economic activity while promoting political reconciliation, the Times said. ''If that is not done, then the society will unravel at some point,'' it quoted Pascual, who was head of the office until recently, as saying.

Banks, political parties and other institutions would then be established, followed by news media, private aid organizations and civilian advocacy groups, the newspaper reported. Physical reconstruction would begin ''only when it seems to fit into the other priorities,'' Pascual, who is now a vice president of the Brookings Institution, said. ''But the ability to build large-scale infrastructure before you have established order and stability is nil because it will be blown up,'' he told the Times.

The newspaper said that Pentagon officials were consulted in drafting the new plan, citing State Department officials as sources. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told the Times: ''We can't look at this too simplistically. It is hard to establish a robust political environment if the people do not have electricity or clean drinking water. These are parallel lines of operation that complement each other.'' And Marcia Wong, deputy director of the reconstruction and stabilization office, said the draft plan should not be viewed as cast in stone. ''A lot of it will be driven by events on the ground,'' she said. Officials will have to go in with ''Plan B, Plan C and Plan D'' as well.


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