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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 05:34 GMT 06:34 UK
US to change Iraq funding focus
By Jill McGivering
BBC correspondent in Washington

US soldier with Iraqi policemen at the site of a massive explosion in Baghdad,
Security has become the most pressing need in Iraq
The US administration wants to re-allocate billions of reconstruction dollars for Iraq and spend them instead on security and other short-term needs.

US officials say this new strategy has emerged after months of review.

But critics see the shift - which requires approval from Congress - as further evidence that the original US thinking on Iraq was faulty.

The handling of post-conflict Iraq has become a sensitive issue in the US presidential campaign.

If Congress agrees, 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.

Changing tack

Officials now admit getting Iraq's security right has to be the fundamental priority. And lowering unemployment comes a close second.

"These aren't just our priorities," said one official, "they're also those of Iraqis across the board."

But the shift is also being interpreted by critics as proof that grand long-term plans to reshape the economy just were not realistic.

They also charge that the intensity and level of violent resistance was severely under-estimated.

The shift in spending could also prove politically charged.

The performance of the US in both planning for and managing post-war Iraq has become a key issue in the election battle.


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