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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Iraq rebuilding efforts 'pitiful'
US soldier with Iraqi policemen at the site of a massive explosion in Baghdad,
More needs to be spent on security in Iraq, say officials
A cross-party committee of the US Congress has criticised the Bush administration for the slow progress of reconstruction in Iraq.

Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed frustration that only $1bn out of a $18bn reconstruction fund approved last year had been spent.

The committee said the US was failing to make use of one of its most potent tools to influence Iraq's future.

Officials asked on Wednesday for funds to be diverted to improve security.

A classified US intelligence report on Iraq says the country will continue to suffer from instability through to the end of 2005, government officials have told the New York Times.

Effort 'embarrassing'

If Congress agrees to divert the funds, the change will mean nearly $3.5bn will be shifted away from long-term projects such as water and power and channelled instead to improving security, creating jobs and increasing oil production.

STATE DEPARTMENT PROPOSAL
Police, border patrols and other security measures to be boosted by $1.8bn to $5bn
Water and sewer programs to shrink from $4.2bn to about $1.9bn
Electricity to be reduced by more than $1bn from $5.47bn

Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican described the rebuilding effort in Iraq so far as "beyond pitiful".

"It's beyond embarrassing, it's now in the zone of dangerous," he said.

Ron Schlicher, from the Bureau of near Eastern Affairs, told the committee that projects had suffered from attacks by insurgents.

"We know that the provision of adequate security up front is requisite to rapid progress on all other fronts," he said.

But Senator Hagel said the shift in funds did not "add up... to a picture that shows that we're winning".

"It does add up to this: an acknowledgment that we are in deep trouble," he said.

Stability

Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar, said as Iraqis prepare for elections, they are looking for signs of stability.

The lack of planning is apparent
Senator Richard Lugar

"Few signs of stability are more convincing than successful reconstruction projects that boost the economy, repair infrastructure and restore municipal services," he said.

Senators Hagel and Lugar have long said that the US government's plans for rebuilding Iraq were poor and based on the flawed assumptions that Americans would be greeted as liberators.

"Our committee heard blindly optimistic people from the administration prior to the war and people outside the administration... that we just simply will be greeted with open arms," Senator Lugar said.

"The lack of planning is apparent."

Congress had agreed the $18.4bn reconstruction fund in November as part of an $87bn package for Iraq and Afghanistan.

That pessimistic tone was echoed in a new intelligence report on Iraq, the first since October 2002, officials told the New York Times.

The document, commissioned in July, lists three possible outcomes for the country over the next year - the worst being civil war and the best being continuing instability.

The CIA has declined to comment.


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