International Development written question – answered on 30th March 2006.

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Photo of Hilary Benn Hilary Benn The Secretary of State for International Development

During the last two and a half years, I have visited Iraq on four separate occasions and have had discussions with a wide range of Iraqi ministers and senior Government officials. My last visit to Baghdad and Basra was from 20 to 21 March. I met with Prime Minister Ja'afari, Foreign Minister Zebari, and talked to Planning Minister Barham Salih. During our discussions, they expressed appreciation of our continued support to Iraq's reconstruction. 2006 marks an important chapter in Iraq's development towards becoming a fully fledged democracy as well as taking the first, tough steps towards developing a strong, prosperous economy. The new Government needs to form quickly and effectively to take charge of the challenges ahead. We will discuss DFID's support programme in depth with the new Government when it comes into office.

The UK pledged £544 million for Iraq's reconstruction at the Madrid donors conference in October 2003. To date, over £510 million of this pledge has been disbursed. DFID continues to offer support to the Iraqi Government, to help:

reform their economy, improve power and water services in the south, develop open, accountable government systems that people can feel confidence in, and which promote the rule of law.

We are also providing support for Iraqi civil society organisations, to boost community participation in shaping their country's future. Our programme for 2005–06 (£65 million), has supported projects on water, electricity, supporting participation in the political process, support to the centre of government, and capacity building in local government. We expect to spend another £45 million in 2006–07.

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