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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 00:38 GMT 01:38 UK
Iraq promised tea, rice and tourists
The holy shrine of Imam al-Ali in Najaf Iraq
Imam al-Ali in Najaf is a Shia holy site
As well as promising billions of dollars for Iraq, donors at the Madrid donor conference have come up with some less usual offers.

Rice, tea and even busloads of high-spending tourists have been pledged, as well as hard cash.

Iran - which was at war with Iraq for eight years in the 1980s - has agreed to extend a $300m credit facility to its neighbour and to export its oil.

But Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said he could also foresee at least 100,000 tourists visiting the former enemy country every month.

Iraq has made many new friends in the last few days. The pledges we have had today will help us get back on our feet
Ayad Allawi

The Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala contain some of the holiest shrines for Shia Muslims - the majority faith in Iraq.

They are also leading centres for scholars of Islamic theology.

Mr Kharrazi said he expected the Iranian pilgrims to spend at least $500m a year.

'New friends'

Meanwhile Vietnam promised rice worth $500,000 and Sri Lanka 100 tonnes of tea.

The $100,000 pledged by Latvia and the $290,000 by Slovakia may not seem much compared to the United States' $20.3bn (still to be passed by Congress) and Japan's $5bn injection.

However president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Ayad Allawi, has welcomed all the donations made at the summit which amount to $13bn.

"Iraq has made many new friends in the last few days. The pledges we have had today will help us get back on our feet," he said.

France and Germany - which opposed the US invasion of Iraq - said they were not pledging any new aid.

The BBC's Tristana Moore
"Donor countries want to make sure that they know where their money is going"

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