Beckett commits more aid to ‘stabilise’ Iraq

The foreign secretary Margaret Beckett has pledged more aid for Iraq, in an attempt to stabilise the increasingly violent country.

Speaking at the launch of the International Compact with Iraq in Egypt, Ms Beckett committed the UK to an additional £100 million for reconstruction in Iraq.

Total UK aid for humanitarian relief and reconstruction in Iraq now stands at £744 million, four years after the UK and US led invasion removed Saddam Hussein.

As former army officials becoming increasingly critical of the lack of progress in Iraq, Ms Beckett insisted the UK remains committed to supporting the Iraqi government and the country’s economic and social stability.

The foreign secretary welcomed the five year reform programme developed at the conference, claiming it would help the Iraqi government improve security and services, bringing stability to Iraq.

“Iraq’s potential and its people’s ambition are clear to everyone. But so too are the challenges that Iraq needs to tackle,” she said.

Some 60 countries have sent delegates to the compact, which is seeking to end conflict and bring stability to Iraq

Ms Beckett continued: “I salute the personal leadership of PM Maliki in his efforts to restore security, including through the Iraqi-led Fardh Al-Qanoon security plan in Baghdad.

“Strong Iraqi leadership needs to be underpinned by constructive engagement by its neighbours. Iraq’s regional partners can help reduce the violence in Iraq and encourage political reconciliation.

“We urge the Iraqi government to take the lead in implementing the commitments made here today. The international community will support you in this endeavour. We hope that a compact secretariat will be set up as soon as possible in Baghdad to monitor the progress of the compact and of the international commitments made here today.”

The conference comes as a former Army chief urged the UK and US to “admit defeat” in the “hopeless war” in Iraq.

Speaking to BBC’s Newsnight, General Sir Michael Rose said he understood why insurgents are attacking coalition troops. “I don’t excuse them for some of the terrible things they do, but I do understand why they are resisting,” he said.

Asked whether he thought the insurgents were “right” to try to push coalition forces out of the country, the former senior army commander replied: “Yes I do.”

Sir Michael has written a book drawing parallels between the insurgents in Iraq and George Washington’s supporters during the American War of Independence.