The United States said Tuesday only companies from countries that supported the war in Iraq would be allowed to bid for large reconstruction contracts, effectively excluding firms from war opponents Germany and France.
The U.S.-funded reconstruction contracts are worth $18.6 billion.
Calling the decision “essential” to Washington’s security interests, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Washington had drawn up a list of 63 nations that would able to take part in Iraqi reconstruction efforts being funded by the U.S. government worth some $18.6 billion (€15.2 billion).
“It is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States to limit competition for the prime contracts for these procurements,” Wolfowitz said in a statement. “An unsuccessful reconstruction effort would have serious negative effects on the ultimate success of the war effort.”
The move makes good on a warning from the Bush administration that those nations that opposed the U.S.-led campaign to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would not play a large role in the rebuilding of the country.
Russia and Canada, which stood with Germany and France against the war, will also be barred from the 26 contracts for Iraq’s electricity, communications, water and transportation infrastructure. Firms from all countries, however, will be eligible for smaller work as subcontractors.
No troops from Germany or France
Wolfowitz’s announcement comes after political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic had made considerable effort to show the row over Iraq had been overcome. But U.S. President George Bush has been unable to convince German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac to send troops to help stabilize the country.
U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden, the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement released Tuesday the decision to bar countries from the reconstruction effort was a “totally gratuitous slap that does nothing to protect our security interests and everything to alienate countries we need with us in Iraq.”
But Wolfowitz said he hoped the action would put pressure on other nations to join the military efforts in Iraq, pointing out that U.S. troop levels had fallen by 12,000 as non-U.S. forces had increased from 14,000 to 23,7000 in recent months.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
“Limiting competition for prime contracts will encourage the expansion of international cooperation in Iraq and in future efforts,” he said.
Although there was no official comment from Berlin or Paris on Wednesday, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister John Manley told the Associated Press the decision to exclude Canada’s companies could jeopardize Ottawa’s financial support for the rebuilding of Iraq. Canada has so far earmarked $190 million for Iraqi reconstruction aid. “To exclude Canadians just because they are Canadians would be unacceptable if they accept funds from Canadian taxpayers for the reconstruction of Iraq,” Manley said.