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Last Updated: Monday, 6 October, 2003, 22:33 GMT 23:33 UK
Bush reorganises US Iraq effort
Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice will head the new group

US President George W Bush has ordered a major reorganisation of American efforts to bring control to Iraq.

The Iraq Stabilisation Group, headed by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, will give the White House a more direct role in the Pentagon-run reconstruction efforts.

US officials say the new group will not diminish Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's authority over attempts to bring stability to Iraq.

A BBC correspondent says the move is intended to reassure Congress - currently considering a new budget request - that there is a senior White House figure who is dedicated to ensuring every American tax dollar is spent on Iraqi reconstruction.

Condoleezza Rice, who is already a key figure in Mr Bush's Middle East planning, will head a group of representatives from the State Department, Defence and Treasury.

The group will coordinate efforts in four areas: counterterrorism, economic issues, political institutions and communications.

President Bush said it would be a Washington support group for the US administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, and for the Pentagon.

Improvements

"Condi's job and Condi's team is going to make sure that the efforts are - continue to be coordinated, so that we continue to make progress," Mr Bush told a news conference.

The new group was formed in anticipation of congressional approval of up to $20bn for reconstruction in the country, as part of an $87bn spending package for Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The Pentagon remains the lead agency," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

"We want to, here in Washington, help assist the Pentagon and the Coalition Provisional Authority to put those resources to the best possible use."

North Carolina Democratic Senator John Edwards, running for his party's presidential nomination, said it was "appalling" that Mr Bush "waited so long to take even this most basic step".

"It's about time President Bush tried to get his bureaucracy in order, but rearranging flow charts is no substitute for leading," he said.

US polls have shown a drop in confidence among Americans in the president's skill in handling crises.

But Mr Bush insists the picture in Iraq is better than the one being portrayed.

"The situation is improving on a daily basis in Iraq," he said. "People are freer. The security situation is getting better. The infrastructure is getting better. The schools are opening. The hospitals are being modernised."


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