August 29, 2003 - Westport News: RPCV Shays Calls for Better Rebuilding Efforts in Iraq

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RPCV Shays Calls for Better Rebuilding Efforts in Iraq

RPCV Shays Calls for Better Rebuilding Efforts in Iraq

Shays Calls for Better Rebuilding Efforts

By Don Casciato

U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-4) has urged the United States to step up its efforts to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure.

"If we don't get the electricity and other things running, there will be many more problems," he said in a Wednesday telephone interview from Kuwait with the Connecticut Post. The Bridgeport-based newspaper is a sister publication of the Westport News.

The congressman asked the Bush administration to come forward with its plan for rebuilding Iraq and to ask Congress for supplemental appropriations to pay for the project.

"I am convinced the administration is very aware of the need for financial resources but is unwilling to disclose it for political reasons," said Shays, who pointed out that he will lobby the White House to seek assistance from the United Nations and more foreign countries in rebuilding Iraq. "We need the French, the British and the Germans in here."

Flexibility Advocated

Shays called on Bush to "show a little more flexibility" by softening his position against allowing other countries to participate in rebuilding Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations.

"They need more people here, but it doesn't have to be Americans," he said.

Shays, chairman of a House subcommittee looking into national security, said that he supports emergency supplemental funding for the ongoing postwar effort.

In the British-controlled Iraqi city of Basra, where he traveled with Westport-based Save the Children over the past weekend, Shays said he saw a city of 2 million people that didn't seem to care about itself.

"There was trash everywhere, buildings in disrepair, hustle and bustle and people everywhere," he said, according to press reports. Shays also noted that he arrived in Basra on the day three British solders were killed.

Youth Center Visit

In addition, Shays visited a youth center run by Save the Children, and spoke with a doctor at a hospital that had no oxygen for patients and lacked medicines. "It was pretty bad," said Shays, who once was a Peace Corps volunteer.

Save the Children has 14 youth centers in Iraq and is engaged in a variety of projects, including helping rebuild Basra's waterworks and attempting to help train Iraqis to do the work.

The request to the Bush administration comes at the same time two more U.S. soldiers were killed Wednesday and Oxfam, an international relief agency, finished withdrawing its 15 workers from Iraq. The deaths brought to 65 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action since President Bush declared major combat over May 1.

The congressman explained that he is optimistic that Iraq can be rebuilt because the country has vast oil reserves, fertile land and an educated population. However, Shays believes it will take a major commitment from the United States and other nations.

"As one general said to us, money is the ammunition in this part of the world," he said.

Dismal Revenue Outlook

But L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. occupation coordinator, said that even when Iraqi deliveries return to 2002 levels, the industry won't produce enough revenue to rebuild the country. The Bush administration is preparing for a donors conference in Madrid in October, where it hopes to raise significant sums from around the world.

Bremer, a Connecticut resident, said that Iraq will need "several tens of billions of dollars from abroad in the next year to rebuild the country's weak infrastructure and to revive its moribund economy. Just to meet current electrical demand will cost $2 billion, according to Bremer.

Shays spent the last three days with a congressional delegation, led by U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican. The group has traveled from Kuwait into Iraq to meet with U.S. troops and local officials in Baghdad, Kirkuk and other Iraqi communities.

When he returns, Shays reported that he plans to follow up on several issues raised during his trip. One issue: he wants to press the Pentagon to tell troops when they will return home. "Their spirits are good, but they all look forward to coming home and just want to know when they will be coming home," said Shays.

In addition, he said he wants to ask the State Department to encourage and assist Iraqi nationals living in the United States to help in rebuilding Iraq's economy.

Aides for Shays in his Washington office said yesterday that the congressman has extended his trip to Iraq to Sunday. However, they emphasize his plans are subject to change.

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Story Source: Westport News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Congress; COS - Fiji; Congress; Iraq; Speaking Out



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