Representatives from more than fifty countries, the United Nations, and other organizations met in Tokyo, Japan, to discuss speeding up aid for Iraq. The meeting was a follow-up to a conference held in Madrid, Spain, in 2003. At that time, the nations and organizations pledged to provide more than thirty-billion dollars in loans and contributions to Iraq. Ross Mountain, a United Nations official says, "Progress has not been what we had hoped for, due to the very real difficulties posed by the security situation on the ground."
"Most parts of the country are secure," says Mehdi Hafedh, Iraq's planning minister. "The violence," he says, "is almost confined to three out of eighteen provinces." Barham Saleh, Iraq's deputy prime minister, told the assembled officials that aid from their countries would help put an end to terrorism: "Please do not delay. The time to make firm commitments is now. Honor your pledges now."
The U.S. has allocated almost twenty-one billion dollars in aid to Iraq over the last two years. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage says that the U.S. is now moving to get that aid to the Iraqis more quickly.
Now that Iraq has a sovereign government, says Mr. Armitage, it is essential that elections be held on schedule in January and that pledges made to assist Iraq be fulfilled.