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Bush to partners in Iraq: Pay up

Only $3.5 billion of some $14.6 billion pledged has been paid.

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For nations that in the past have pledged to help Iraq rebuild, the United States has this message: Get out your checkbook.

In recent days, administration officials, from President Bush on down, have insisted repeatedly that it is time for others to live up to monetary commitments to Baghdad, most of them made in 2003.

"The international community has pledged about $13 billion to help this new government. Yet only $3.5 billion has been paid," said Mr. Bush on Monday in a commencement address to the US Merchant Marine Academy.

Iraq's security situation has discouraged many donors from pouring cash into the country. They don't want their aid used to pay for gun-toting guards, or for clinics or courthouses that might get blown up.

But the White House argues that the elimination of insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shows security is improving. The renewed push for international contributions also comes at a time when it is becoming clear just how expensive rebuilding Iraq will be.

"There's a convergence of events at this point in time leading to this," says Robert Pfaltzgraff, a professor of international security at the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

In coming months, non-US donor nations and international institutions should become increasingly important to the reconstruction of Iraq, according to US officials. Money in the main US reconstruction account, the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, is dwindling. The new Iraqi government will increasingly take over reconstruction management duties from the US.

The United Nations has already agreed to step up its activity. Earlier this week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan, responding to a plea from Iraqi officials, said he would help organize international economic and political support for Iraq.

Given all this, it's time for nations to make good on promised reconstruction donations, insists the White House. Pledges are fine, and many nations have made generous promises, say US officials. But Iraq now needs the money.

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