19/09/2003

Minister on two-day fact-finding mission to Iraq

International Development Minister Hilary Benn has embarked on a two-day visit to Iraq to see the "political, development and humanitarian challenges" facing Iraqi people.

During visits to Basrah and Baghdad he will meet Iraqi Ministers, members of the Iraq Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority and representatives of the UN and civil society.

On arriving he said: "The UK is committed to working to support the Iraqi people in building a better future. The Iraq Governing Council is making good progress and we will work to support them in their efforts to build an effective and accountable government, and to see what more needs to be done to improve life and services for the Iraqi people."

The Department for International Development also announced this week that it is helping with the rebuilding of Basrah Southern University's Bab Al-Zubayr complex.

The university, which has around 22,000 students, suffered "marginal damage" in the recent military conflict and much greater damage as "a result of looting". The work, carried out by Iraqi staff, will include repairs to lecture halls, classrooms and staff offices.

The project will receive funding of more than £150,000. It is part of a £6.7 million programme of repair and reconstruction of public buildings in Iraq.

The UK Department for International Development has committed a total of £198 million to humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Iraq. Up to £20 million was allocated last week towards the restoration of essential services in southern Iraq.

(gmcg)

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