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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
World Bank warns on Iraq delays
By Steve Schifferes
BBC News Online economics reporter

telephone exchange in Iraq
Repairing the damage is painfully slow
The president of the World Bank has warned that the reconstruction of Iraq is falling seriously behind schedule because of the continuing violence.

"The main problem is not the resource constraint," James Wolfensohn told BBC News Online, referring to the $33bn (18.7bn) required to reconstruct Iraq.

"It is the physical constraint, the inability of (workers) to actually go into the country."

Rebuilding Iraq is key to winning the hearts and minds of the population.

So getting the reconstruction efforts back on track is seen as crucial in Iraq.

Taking risks

Mr Wolfensohn said that his own personnel were unable to work in Iraq and had to rely on video-conferencing with Iraqi officials from locations in Jordan or Washington.

James Wolfensohn
If your employees are getting killed, it is quite hard to send them in
James Wolfensohn, World Bank

Similar choices are increasingly being made by private companies thinking of investing in Iraq as rocketing security costs eat into their profit margins.

"I can't speak for all private companies, but if your employees are getting killed, it is quite hard to send them in," he said.

Consequently, the reconstruction efforts are hampered, he implied.

"If you want the thing going full pace, that will only happen when you get some sense of security in the country," Mr Wolfensohn said.

Mr Wolfensohn said that while some people were prepared to take risks to go to Bosnia or Gaza , this was different as in Iraq World Bank personnel were being specifically targeted.

He also expressed disappointment that the pace of reconstruction in terms of human development, such as health and education, was so slow.

"We are most concerned with getting the kids back to school and health provision. Lots of progress still needs to be made," he said.

World Bank chief James Wolfensohn
Talks to BBC News Online's Steve Schifferes

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