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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 October, 2003, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Iraq effort hampers aid budget
Repairs are made to overhead lines in Iraq
Iraq's infrastructure needs massive reinvestment
The UK is reducing overseas aid to eastern European and central Asian countries because of the cost of rebuilding Iraq, the government has revealed.

Millions of pounds are required as efforts to continue to improve Iraq's infrastructure and the government says some of this will need to come from other areas of the aid spectrum.

But there will be no cuts to schemes which the government has already committed to, newly-promoted International Development Secretary Hilary Benn said.

The government was already planning to switch emphasis from aid to middle-income countries to give more money to extremely poor countries, the minister said in a statement.

He added: "However, in light of the needs in Iraq we will make reallocations within our overall middle-income countries (MIC) programme over the next two years, particularly 2005-06.

"No decision has yet been taken on where any potential reallocation will come from within the funding for MICs.

"This is likely to be in the region of 100m over the two years. In addition we will continue to provide substantial assistance to middle income countries through multilateral institutions."

'Scandal'

The Department for International Development's overall programme will grow by more than 1bn in 2003-2006 to reach more than 4.5bn, he said.

Charities were the first to attack the government's move, suggesting that the government's commitments in Iraq should have been taken from sources other than the current aid budget.

Belen Vazquez, aid specialist for ActionAid, said: "We appreciate the government's commitment on the reconstruction of Iraq. But this should be matched with additional resources.

"Before the Iraq war there was not enough money available for poor countries. Now the situation is even worse. We are reconstructing Iraq at the expense of poor people in the rest of the world."

An Oxfam spokesman told the Guardian newspaper: "This is a real scandal.

"It would affect very poor countries like Bolivia where most of the population live in poverty without access to public services or education.

"We should be helping the new government of Bolivia at a time like this, not cutting aid."

  • On Thursday, the British Government pledged 5m to a food aid programme for 5.5 million people in Zimbabwe - nearly half the country's population - expected to need assistance by the end of 2003.


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