DONORS are likely to pledge more money for Iraq at a conference next week than they did for Afghanistan last year, Spain's foreign minister Ana Palacio said. But it is unrealistic to expect the international donors' conference on October 23 and 24 to come up with the tens of billions of dollars that international organisations say is needed, she said in an interview yesterday. Promises of aid from wealthy states, many of which strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, are expected to fall far short of Washington's hopes and leave it footing most of the bill for postwar reconstruction alone. Palacio, whose government has firmly supported US policy in Iraq, denied that would make the conference a failure. “The point of reference is another donors' conference such as the Afghanistan conference,” she said on Friday evening at a seminar on international affairs at Formentor. At a Tokyo conference last year, donors pledged $4.5 billion over four to five years to help Afghanistan rebuild after decades of war and neglect. “I'm sure we will surpass that figure, even without taking into account what the international community... has already contributed to the reconstruction of Iraq. Therefore, I think it will be a success,” she said. The World Bank, United Nations and International Monetary Fund have estimated $36 billion will be needed over the next four years to reactivate the Iraqi economy. Spain on Friday pledged $300 million of economic aid to Iraq until 2007. Japan has said it will provide $1.5 billion in the near term, Britain has promised $912 million in total, and the European Union has offered $200 million. The United States has promised $20 billion for Iraq over 18 months. “You can't expect a donors' conference to raise $36 billion because that is not realistic. What was raised for Afghanistan... that is the realistic order of magnitude,” Palacio said. She said she respected France and Germany's decision not to contribute more. “They say that they don't feel comfortable at the moment contributing. That's their right and you have to respect it. I don't share it, but you have to respect it,” she said. The amount of money raised would be only one measure of the success of the conference, she said. The other would be to show the international community's solidarity with the Iraqi people. “You have to bear in mind that Iraq is a rich country -- temporarily impoverished by the bad administration of Saddam Hussein -- but a rich country,” she said. Palacio indicated that the 1'300 Spanish troops who have been sent to Iraq could be there for the long haul. “Spain has a long-term commitment... We will be there as long as is necessary,” she said. “Spain, like all the members of the coalition, is there to guarantee the stability and security of Iraq. “Once that can be guarantEed by the Iraqis themselves, obviously we won't stay a single hour longer.”


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