A Talk With Iraq's Finance Minister

On July 1, Iraq's government will move from being a U.S. protectorate to a council of appointed leaders most likely working under a U.N. umbrella. No one knows what will happen to the strife-torn nation after that. But Finance Minister Kamil Al-Gailani thinks the sooner the government becomes one of "Iraq for Iraqis" through a general election, the better. "A large part of the country is stable and ready to grow," he insists. "The violence and insurgency are mainly in a few cities."

In an interview in New York on May 4, Al-Gailani also suggested that U.S. troops ringing cities such as Fallujah should be moved out to guard the nation's borders. He believes most of the insurgents, who could range in numbers from 2,000 to 4,000, come from outside the country. There may be some Iraqis in Fallujah "guiding the outsiders," he says, but they are not interested in fighting the U.S. Al-Gailani argues that freshly trained Iraqi police and military must be trusted to manage security.

Al-Gailani says Iraqi oil revenues, plus funds from the U.N., World Bank, and the U.S., are expected to add up to an adequate $33 billion budget for this year. He also hopes Iraq's creditors, largely from Europe, Russia, and the Gulf states, will agree to cut its $120 billion in foreign debt. A meeting of officials from Iraq and creditor nations is expected in June.

Edited by Rose Brady

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