Brussels Conference to Build International Partnership for Iraq
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 22, 2005 The Iraqi government and the international community are in Belgium today discussing priorities, aspirations and expectations for the future, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in opening remarks at the Brussels Conference hosted by the United States and the European Union.
Senior officials from more than 80 nations and organizations are meeting with the new Iraqi government at the one-day conference in hopes of forging a new international partnership, Rice said. Iraqi government officials will present their priorities for dealing with security, economics and politics, and the international community will respond to the Iraqis' agenda, deciding what it will and will not support, she said.
The Iraqis need full international support as they go through what has been a quick, unprecedented political journey, Rice said.
"In the face of terror, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis are displaying tremendous courage and making remarkable progress," she said. "The brave people of Iraq are asking us to stand with them, and they deserve our full support."
The new partnership formed at this conference will support Iraq in political reform, economic reconstruction and security strengthening with the rule of law, Rice said. Completing the democratic transformation of Iraq will not be an easy process, she said, and will require discipline from all participants. Iraq's neighbors must secure their borders against insurgents, and the countries that pledged material support to the Iraqi government must deliver. But Iraq has obligations too, Rice said.
"To maximize the 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," she said. "Building the institutions of democracy is essential to Iraq's long-term success."
This is not a donor conference, but an agenda-setting opportunity that will eventually lead to a donor conference, Rice said.
Rice emphasized that the Iraqi government still will be responsible for its own future, but that the international community will be supporting Iraq along the way.
"The Iraqis themselves will set the course of Iraq's future," she said. "But they will not bear the weight of their responsibilities alone. Iraq has many allies in the international community, as we are demonstrating with this remarkable gathering here today. So let us move forward together toward the goals of freedom and democracy that we all share."