posted on Mar, 5 2007 @ 09:34 PM
UK Telegraph | 5 Mar 2007 | Damien McElroy in Baghdad
Baghdad's mayor lashed out at the United States yesterday – for spending huge sums on projects to collect rubbish and plant trees while his
devastated war-torn city struggles without electricity.
At a meeting in the city's Green Zone the mayor, Sabir al-Isawi, interrupted US officials in the middle of a presentation to key Iraqi officials, to
say these schemes are "not what the people want".
He was echoing the feelings of many critics of America's priorities since Baghdad's infrastructure was all but destroyed since the US-led invasion
On average, residents get only two hours of electricity a day, and are bitterly angry that the world's most powerful nation has not delivered a
single major power plant in four years of occupation.
And hours after yesterday's presentation a high-ranking US official admitted that, despite spending $22 billion on reconstruction across Iraq, the
Americans didn't expect Baghdad to have a 24-hour electricity supply until 2013.
At the meeting, Mr al-Isawi said: "I'm sorry to say that there are more important projects that are required by the city. There are essential
services required by each district in the city that could be met by building power plants and bridges."
He criticised the US-driven projects because they were "overlapping and so badly planned, that the workers hired are ineffective".
The American project is part of a wider scheme to provide employment for Baghdad youths who might otherwise fall into the grip of insurgent groups
still bringing daily chaos and bloodshed to Iraq.
Troop commanders have identified scores of projects, including planting trees, refitting health clinics, rebuilding dilapidated schools, plus
establishing a functioning water and sewage system in the capital.
Baghdad has dire problems with domestic waste. Each district of the city has a so-called "Trash Street" where the local residents dump their
The mayor himself confirmed that he had ordered seven million refuse bags at a cost of £5 million.
At yesterday's meeting, the US officials welcomed the mayor's input. Brigadier General Vincent Brookes, the deputy commander of multinational forces
in Baghdad, said the US would gradually cede control of the work to city officials.
Eric Olsen, a US envoy for Iraqi reconstruction, conceded that the mayor was reflecting a widespread frustration.
But he pleaded with the 12 Iraqi officials present to propose new public works that would meet local needs. "Within a couple of weeks, I hope that it
will be Iraqis in here deciding on projects that make a difference to their own future."
Yet, hours after the meeting, Mr Olsen's boss, Joseph Saloom, made the shock admission that the city is not expected to have a proper electricity
supply for another six years at least.