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US will not contribute cash at Iraq reconstruction conference: Report

Washington will instead push for private sector investment and count on commitments from Iraq's Gulf neighbours
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said his country needs up to $100bn for infrastructure (AFP)

The United States does not plan to contribute any money at a conference in Kuwait next week to fund Iraq's reconstruction drive after the war against the Islamic State (IS) group, US and Western officials said.

In a Reuters report on Thursday, a US official said “we’re not planning to announce anything” regarding financial assistance at the conference, which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will attend.

The official, however, said Tillerson could still announce a contribution closer to the time of the conference.

Washington will instead encourage and count on private sector investment as well as commitments from Iraq's Gulf neighbours, particularly Saudi Arabia, to pour in money as part of a rapprochement with Baghdad meant to reduce Iran's influence in Iraq.

President Donald Trump said during the 2016 US presidential campaign that if elected "the era of nation building will be ended".

According an earlier Middle East Eye report, the US will also not put forward any reconstruction funds in Syria, another area where an international coalition battled IS.

"Funding from the Americans is out of the question," a UN source told Middle East Eye.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said his country needs up to $100bn to fix crumbling infrastructure and cities devastated by the conflict against IS.

A shortage of reconstruction funds may increase the danger of reinvigorating grievances between Iraq’s Sunni minority and the Shia-led government.

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In response to a query to the State Department about the lack of a US contribution, an official pointed to the billions of dollars Washington has committed to financing loans and restoring basic services to Iraqi towns and cities in the immediate aftermath of fighting.

"The immediate stabilisation needs remain vast, and limited US government resources alone cannot meet these current and pressing needs, let alone consider supporting long term reconstruction," the US official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In January, the US government said it planned to provide $150m for stabilisation operations in 2018 - funds that would go to restoring basic utilities and grants to small businesses - bringing Washington's total contribution to $265.3m since 2015.

The US government has also provided $1.7bn in humanitarian assistance for Iraq since 2014, making it the single largest donor to address the crisis.

"Absolutely nothing," said a Western official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, when asked whether Washington would announce any financial contributions at the conference to fund long term reconstruction projects.

A US official in Baghdad said the US role in the Kuwait conference would be focused on opportunities "for true private sector investment or public-private partnerships with the Iraqi government".

"What we are trying to do in Kuwait next week is to put together companies that want to look at Iraq ... and possibly also talk about ways to finance projects," added the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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