Leading international donors on Wednesday said next month's crucial aid-pledging conference for Iraq would take place in Madrid as scheduled, despite the deteriorating security environment across the country and the weak status of the current United Nations mandate.
The donors, led by a core group comprising the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the US, the European Commission, the United Nations Development Programme as well as Saudi Arabia, Japan and the United Arab Emirates, also said they expected detailed "needs assessment" reports would be ready in time for the conference, on October 23-24.
"Everything is on schedule for Madrid," said Alan Larson, US under-secretary of state for economy. However officials said they would almost certainly have to hold at least one more preparatory meeting.
The needs assessment reports will cover 14 sectors ranging from water, electricity, housing, health and education, to employment, governance and media.
Officials have refused to divulge any estimates over of the costs of reconstruction. However, Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad, said this week it could run into tens of billions of dollars.
Though Dov Zakheim, US under secretary of defence, said the security situation was "not as negative" as portrayed, donors remain preoccupied with security and the UN's mandate.
Officials from the CPA and US military central command gave detailed presentations on security to the 80 or so delegates.
Donors sought assurances that protection would be available for "soft", non-military targets involved in reconstruction. In addition to the 14 sectors, there were calls to step up the training of the Iraqi police forces. That training may be financed from a multinational trust fund under the umbrella of the World Bank.
Chris Patten, the European Union's external affairs commissioner, said the core group of countries had agreed "not to allow our timetable to be delayed by violence on the ground".
Donors also suggested that any pledges made at Madrid could depend on what happens to the UN's role in Iraq.