Sen. Ted Stevens says Iraq needs more money, sooner

Posted: Sunday, August 24, 2003

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) The U.S. administrator for Iraq needs more money before the end of the year to finance rebuilding efforts there, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens said Saturday.

L. Paul Bremer called Stevens to discuss ongoing attacks on U.S.-led military personnel and Iraq's own infrastructure, which is slowing efforts to get the nation back on its feet.

Stevens, who was at home in Girdwood, told The Associated Press he spoke to Bremer Saturday morning.

Stevens, R-Alaska, said Iraq is scheduled to get more money in February. The White House is expected to request another $40 billion to $50 billion for 2004.

But Stevens said after talking with Bremer, he now understands additional money will be needed before then, probably in December. While Bremer did not specify an amount, Stevens said it is likely between $2 billion and $3 billion.

Defense Department officials have said U.S. operations are costing about $3.9 billion monthly.

''I told him I would do my very best to help him,'' Stevens said. ''I think we have to get things on a straight path and finish the peace process.''

Stevens, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he talks to Bremer monthly about the situation in Iraq.

In July, Bremer estimated that rebuilding Iraq could cost $100 billion.

Stevens said there are two possible options for getting the additional money to Iraq: The money could be added to existing bills before the current fiscal year ends Sept. 30, or it could be requested in a supplemental bill in the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Stevens said his conversation with Bremer focused on three issues.

Bremer told Stevens that while Baath Party loyalists to Saddam Hussein pose no strategic threat, their continued attacks are disruptive to the peace process.

He also said U.S.-led coalition forces are dealing with a large number of foreign terrorists who infiltrated the country after the official end of the war.

And Bremer said rebuilding efforts are being hampered by attacks from Iraqis themselves, many of whom Bremer suspects are the approximately 100,000 criminals Hussein released from jail before the war.

Attacks by terrorists are posing particularly difficult problems, Bremer told Stevens.

''The terrorists are blowing up pipelines and power lines,'' the senator said. ''When they do that they are stopping the cash flow.''

Stevens said he plans to visit Baghdad in mid-October with five to seven other Appropriations Committee members.

Bremer, at a Saturday news conference, also focused on the security problems and promised that the continued violence would not slow U.S.-led coalition efforts to rebuild the country.

His remarks came after a guerrilla attack in southern Iraq killed three British soldiers. A suicide bombing of U.N. headquarters earlier this week killed at least 23 people.

''We have never hidden the fact that we have security problems in Iraq,'' Bremer said.

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