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UN joins US in developing economic aid for Iraq

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, June 17 (Reuters) UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has agreed to help Iraq get political and financial support in response to a request by Baghdad's new prime minister and US President George W Bush, the United Nations said.

Annan received a telephone call from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki earlier this week, while Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari spoke to the secretary-general in New York on Thursday on the launching of an ''International Compact for Iraq.'' Under the plan, Baghdad would commit itself to a series of yet undefined political, economic and security steps in exchange for international aid and political support.

Annan ''agreed to the Iraqi request for the UN to provide strong support in developing the international compact,'' UN associate spokesman Farhan Haq said. ''The secretary-general looks forward to receiving more details from the Iraqis on the compact and on the role they would wish the UN to play.'' Annan has assigned Mark Malloch Brown, the UN deputy secretary-general, and Asraf Qazi, the chief UN envoy in Iraq, as coordinators for the program.

On Wednesday, Bush told a news conference he would send Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt and State Department Counselor Philip Zelikow to the United Nations and abroad in an effort to help Iraq develop the compact.

The two US officials met Annan on Thursday to deliver a message from Bush ''supporting the Iraqi request for a lead UN role in the process,'' Haq said.

Bush also promised to help Iraq collect the balance of the 13 billion dollar pledged by international community, only 3 billion dollar of which has been paid.

Zebari, a Kurd, who has served in three Iraqi governments since 2003, on Friday told the Council on Foreign Relations the next six months were crucial for the newly formed Iraqi government and the future of the US-led foreign troops. He also said neighboring countries could do more to help Iraq.

On Thursday, in a speech to the UN Security Council Zebari asked the United Nations to ''step up the provision of funds and operational support.'' The world body has kept a low profile in Iraq since its top staff were killed in the bombing of its headquarters in Baghdad in September 2003.

''I remind UN members that hesitancy to engage fully in Iraq only encourages the insurgency,'' Zebari said. ''As security in Iraq improves, we request that the UN reinforce its staff and increase its role throughout the country.'' REUTERS DH RAI0614

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