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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August, 2003, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Iraq 'needs tens of billions'
US soldier supervises Iraqi welfare queue
Bremer said billions were needed to restore safe power and water
America's administrator in Iraq has warned that the country will need tens of billions of dollars to rebuild its shattered infrastructure.

Paul Bremer said it was "almost impossible to exaggerate" the country's economic needs.

The bill to overhaul essential services like electricity and water - running intermittently in many areas at present - would reach almost $30bn, Mr Bremer said.

The economic bill comes on top of the estimated one billion dollars per week the US already spends on its forces in Iraq as well as a spiralling budget deficit at home.

President Bush pledged "no retreat" in Iraq in a speech to US military veterans on Tuesday which was seized upon by political opponents as "empty rhetoric".

[Iraq] is not a country in chaos and Baghdad is not a city in chaos
Paul Bremer

The president said American-led forces were making good progress in restoring order to the country and insisted Iraq was part of the wider US-led war on terror.

On Tuesday, the number of American deaths since the end of major combat operations on 1 May surpassed the number killed during the war - 139 compared to 138.

The situation in Iraq is fast becoming an issue for next year's presidential election, the BBC's Justin Webb reports from Washington.

One Democratic Party presidential hopeful, Bob Graham, described Mr Bush's speech as "the same old sugar-coating of a very bad situation" whilst another, Dick Gephardt, said it was incomprehensible that more was not being done to get other nations to share the burden.

'Billions for clean water'

Mr Bremer said in an interview for the Washington Post that it would take $2bn to restore the Iraqi national electricity grid by next summer and about $13bn over five years to overhaul it completely.

Parts of Baghdad have only eight hours power a day
$300,000 of oil is smuggled out of Iraq every day
Up to 70 vehicles are hijacked in Baghdad daily

Supplying clean water nationwide would cost an additional $16bn over four years.

The US administrator said the money would be sought from both the US and foreign governments, of whom 45 had already "pledged money to the reconstruction".

Revenue from oil - Iraq's traditional main export - was still low, Mr Bremer acknowledged, but the push was on to open up Iraq to foreign investment.

The US administrator insisted that, despite the costs, progress in Iraq was "absolutely achievable".

"I keep reading stories about it's a country in chaos," said Mr Bremer.

"This is simply not true. It is not a country in chaos and Baghdad is not a city in chaos."

'Substantial' cost

Attacks on coalition forces have continued since the ousting of Saddam Hussein's regime in April but Mr Bremer played down their significance.

Iraqi women receive water from a tanker
Utilities: $10-15bn just for electricity and telecoms
Oil and gas industry: $35-40bn
Heathcare: $10-20bn
Education: $6-12bn
Source: McKinsey

"They pose no strategic threat to the US or to the coalition forces and they do not represent a major effort by the Iraqi population against the coalition."

In his speech to US military veterans in St Louis on Tuesday, President George W Bush said the cost of rebuilding Iraq would be "substantial", but gave no details.

The spiralling cost of involvement in Iraq will put the US in the red by almost half a trillion dollars next year, according to a non-partisan government report this week.

The Congressional Budget Office figures mark a new record in dollar terms and suggest a near-$1.4 trillion deficit in the 10 years to 2013 where a surplus of $891bn had been previously foreseen.

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