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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

16 December 2002

Iraq Group Sees Need for a Development and Reconstruction Council

(Interview with Nisreen Sideek, Minister of Reconstruction and
Development, Erbil) (740)
By Vicki Silverman
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- During the first week of December, Iraqi experts, free
from the control of Saddam Hussein's regime, convened in Washington
for a second round of discussions aimed at developing the future
infrastructure and economy of Iraq.
The December session "was really marked by mature discussion," Nasreen
Sideek, a member of the Economic and Infrastructure Working Group,
told the Washington File December 7.
"I think the most important thing to come out of the December meeting
was our unanimous support for the idea of establishing an Iraqi
Development and Reconstruction Council (IDRC)," said Sideek, who is
currently serving as Minister of Reconstruction and Development for
the city of Erbil.
"Following our last meeting [Nov. 8], there was a vigorous email
exchange of drafts and commentary among the sub-working groups. The
information we shared, focusing on the priority issues-electricity,
communications, future of Oil-for-Food, economic policy and the
establishment of the IDRC-really enabled the group, in this second
session, to come up with some strong joint drafts," Sideek said.
"For some of the issues, particularly the specific services like
electricity and commutations, we know we will need more data before
solid planning can begin...but we agreed on the immediate actions to
be taken...We all agreed it would be very important for the 'day
after' to have a council in place to set sound development policy and
promote public understanding of issues of national and international
importance to the people of Iraq," she said.
The Iraqi Development and Reconstruction Council, as the working group
sees it, would be set up as an independent, non-political body to
advise an Iraqi transitional authority.
"From a public interest point of review, it is a very important
council because it will not only help to maintain the existing
services, but also work to develop new policies for the transitional
authority, which will be busy establishing itself," Sideek said.
She noted the IDRC would rely on the existing "backbone" of Iraq's
trained civil servants to continue basic services but also act as an
agent for progress. "There is a wealth of human resources in Iraq. The
problem has always been that the policies serve the regime and not the
people's interests. In our discussions, we agreed on the necessity of
injecting new thinking into the system." For that reason, she
explained, the IDRC might be composed initially of experts who have
lived and worked outside of Saddam Hussein's control.
"At the end of the day, what we all agreed on was that the people of
Iraq are tired. They need change and they all they really care about
is that Iraq have a government structure that will give them freedom
and prosperity - and that's what the council hopes to achieve."
Reflecting on the ten years she has worked on rebuilding northern
Iraq, Sideek said it is impossible to meet every need in the first
stages of reconstruction. She believes prioritization is key.
"Sometimes policymakers take the lead in establishing the priorities,
but we also learned a great deal by talking to the population, "she
said. "People in different regions will have different needs and the
council is likely to be mindful of the differences."
As Iraq sheds the mind-set and policies of the old regime and an
administrative structure free to work in the public interest begins to
take root in Iraq, Sideek says the policy-making role of the IDRC
would probably be phased out.
Asked if the working group's recommendations were being discussed
among Iraqi opposition groups, Sideek stressed that the Economic and
Infrastructure Working Group's discussions are non-political,
professional discussions. Participants are volunteering their
professional time and expertise in the interest of building a better
future for Iraqis. "That said, we want to see our efforts materialize,
and upon the suggestion of some people in our group, we will be
sending several of our papers out to be discussed by Iraqi opposition
figures in London December 14-15."
Economic and Infrastructure Working Group activities are facilitated
by the State Department as part of the "Future of Iraq Project." It
will meet again in January to discuss ways of stabilizing Iraq's
currency, encouraging investment and promoting the growth of non-oil
sectors of Iraq's economy.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



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