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UN Says: We Will Not Be US Subcontractors
Posted: Friday, March 28, 2003

by Oliver Burkeman in Washington, Guardian/UK

The United Nations will refuse to play a "subservient" role or act as a "subcontractor" to the United States in the reconstruction of Iraq, its development chief has warned.

Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the UN development program, told the Guardian that rebuilding contracts already announced by the Bush administration were only "a Band-Aid on services knocked out in the conflict".

Speaking before Tony Blair's trip to Camp David, Mr Malloch Brown said the UN had a clear obligation to carry out humanitarian work in the immediate aftermath of conflict.

But in the long term, "if they want the UN in there - the UN role in civil administration, in the political processes managing the transition", then "we can't go in there playing some subordinate role to a US redevelopment which somehow suggests we are a subcontractor to that US-led effort.

"The Geneva conventions will require that our relations with the occupying power are not subservient ones ... We have pretty well-developed plans, but I am not going to take them out of the drawer until there is a security council resolution. We are not a US or British NGO who can be asked by the government to take on a reconstruction role."

Mr Malloch Brown said the UK had assured him that "it is the devout hope of the British government that the peace will be managed by a much broader coalition" than the war. "But were you today to ask most people in Washington, 'Is that the way you expect things to turn out?' I think the answer would be no. There may be many in Washington who may think this is a war they run, and they should run the peace. And for us, so be it."

USAID, the American government agency coordinating redevelopment, has been under fire for awarding the first reconstruction contracts to US firms, and for budgeting only $50m (31m) so far to aid agencies. On Wednesday, USAID announced that $1.9bn in reconstruction contracts would go to US companies.

But, Mr Malloch Brown said, "that is such a downpayment of the total volume of resources the US and others are going to have to put up, that I am not construing too much from it. I don't think it is a sustainable formula for the long-term reconstruction of the country."

He scoffed at the notion that a major overhaul of Iraq's infrastructure could be achieved within a year of the end of the war - apparently USAID's view, according to a document leaked to the Wall Street Journal last week.

"The view that nation building can be measured by the timeline of a road building contract is misplaced," he said.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

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