Straw backs Iraq reconstruction bid

Britain and Spain are backing a revised resolution on Iraq which will be unveiled at the UN in New York.

The new text is designed to counter Franco-German concerns that the transfer of power back to Iraqi hands is taking too long.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told fellow foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg that he hoped a vote on the latest draft could go ahead later this week.

And he urged European nations to respond to the changes by giving generously to the Iraqi reconstruction effort.

Mr Straw paved the way by announcing a new pledge of nearly £300 million from the UK to help rebuild Iraq.

The new money covers the next two years, in addition to about £200 million already committed by the UK.

But similar contributions from elsewhere in Europe will hinge largely on the revised resolution attracting support, particularly from France, which has questioned the need to fund the consequences of a war it opposed.

London and Madrid have been working behind the scenes to mollifying the French and Germans, who are both concerned that the proposals in the original resolution leave control in US hands longer than necessary.

France and Germany want more UN control now in Iraq and a speedier transfer of power to Iraq.

With the revised UN resolution as a carrot, Mr Straw pressed the rest of Europe to pitch in generously to help restore social, economic and political normality in Iraq.

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