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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 April 2006, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
World Bank mulls return to Iraq
Iraqi school
World Bank projects have helped print school textbooks
The World Bank is considering returning staff to Iraq, almost three years after it withdrew from the country.

Paul Wolfowitz, World Bank president, said it was looking at whether it was feasible to have personnel on the ground to oversee its activities there.

The organisation pulled out in August 2003 after the UN's head office was bombed, and has been running its Iraqi operations out of neighbouring Jordan.

It has offered Iraq $500m (281m) in loans, its first support since 1973.

'Difficult environment'

The funds - requested by the Iraqi authorities - are designed to help accelerate existing projects to rebuild Iraq's shattered infrastructure.

A World Bank administered trust is already supporting schemes to train civil servants, rebuild schools, print textbooks, improve health care and provide access to clean water.

One of the things we are looking at is whether we would be more effective if we had a presence in Iraq
Paul Wolfowitz, World Bank president

The trust has $400m at its disposal for supporting Iraq's most urgent infrastructural needs.

However, this has proved increasingly difficult amid escalating levels of violence and squabbles over the formation of a new government, still unresolved after December's elections.

Corruption concerns have also undermined some development efforts.

Staff safety

The World Bank said it would only allow staff to return to Iraq if it could guarantee their safety.

"One of the things we are looking at is whether we would be more effective if we had a presence in Iraq," Mr Wolfowitz said.

"It is a difficult environment to operate in so the disbursement rate is pretty low."

As a former US deputy defence secretary, Mr Wolfowitz was a key architect of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

His appointment as head of the global development body in 2004 was highly controversial.

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