A joint EU-US conference to rally help for Iraq concluded with fresh promises by diplomats to live up to their commitments but few new initiatives.
Iraq needs help, and the meeting called on nations to provide it
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Iraq's government to boost security and open its political system and economy, while seeking world support to rebuild the country after decades of devastation.
"To maximize financial benefits of assistance, the new Iraqi government must continue to improve security, liberalize its economy and open political space for all members of Iraqi society who reject violence," Rice told the gathering.
Rice says Iraq needs to help itself more
The diplomats planned to give the aid and expertise needed to help Iraq build democratic political bodies, revive its economy and form a police and armed force capable of securing the country without the US-led occupation. But the details and concrete decisions on such help will be made at another donors' conference next month in Jordan.
Rice said that Iraqis deserved the full support of the countries represented here -- including Russia, Japan, China, Malaysia, India, Brazil, Iran, Turkey and most Arab nations.
Diplomats want Iraq to step up
Participants not only called on Iraq to assume much of the burden but urged its neighbors to prevent extremists from infiltrating the country as well as show greater diplomatic support for the new Iraq.
Syria in particular was accused by Rice of failing to prevent militants from crossing its border into Iraq.
Egypt and Jordon meanwhile became the first Arab countries to send an ambassador to Iraq since the Arabs vehemently opposed the US-led invasion of March 2003, it was announced.
Ancient country recognizes a renewed one
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari saluted Egypt for its role "in showing regional leadership by" appointing the envoy "we hope soon to welcome in the new Iraq," reported AFP.
He also urged the European Union, which is a co-sponsor of the conference with the United States, to act quickly and fully on its decision to open a mission in Baghdad.
EU united to help
European diplomats said the EU had overcome internal rows over the invasion and had united to help rebuild Iraq.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, left, has told an international conference that nations must reassure Iraq that they have the world's support as Iraqis rebuild and secure their country. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on the right.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also stressed that the global community must match its words with action to help Iraq, after donors in 2003 and 2004 pledged billions of dollars in aid that has yet to be delivered.
Iraqi officials said the aid has been slow in coming partly because of fears about security and corruption.
Annan also called for Iraq's different ethnic and religious groups to come together behind the constitution the transitional government is supposed to draft by August before new elections in December.
Rice recently berated the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, a Shiite Muslim, for not doing enough to involve Sunni Muslims in the constitution-writing process. Sunni Muslims dominated Iraq until Saddam's ouster and are believed to make up most of the insurgents.
It is the first such conference attended by the government elected in Iraq's landmark democratic elections in January, an event which helped defuse anger in Europe over the invasion.
Jaafari vowed that Baghdad has every intention of taking on its responsibilities -- including military ones after US-led forces begin withdrawing from the country next year.
Jaafari said Iraqi forces can take charge "after we have been assured that the countries from where terrorists are infiltrating are taking their responsibilities and ensure the security of their borders," he told reporters. A senior US commander announced this week that the US, which still has some 135,000 troops in Iraq, plans to start withdrawing forces by next March, after the elections in December for a full sovereign Iraqi government.