KUWAIT: Kuwait's Emir said it would lend US$1 billion and commit a further US$1 billion of investments to Iraq, joining a group of international backers that have this week pledged funds to bolster the country's recovery.
Donors and investors have gathered in Kuwait to discuss efforts to rebuild Iraq's economy and infrastructure as it emerges from a devastating conflict with Islamic State militants who seized almost a third of the country.
"Kuwait will earmark US$1 billion in loans to Iraq and will commit to another US$1 billion as investments," Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah told an international conference on Wednesday.
Minutes later, the European Union's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc would invest 400 million euros, in addition to individual contributions from member states.
The United States said on Tuesday it was extending a US$3 billion credit line but has not provided any direct government assistance. International NGOs have so far pledged US$330 million in humanitarian assistance.
Those sums are dwarfed by the more than US$88 billion that Iraqi officials have said it will cost to rebuild the country after three years of war, with housing a particular priority.
Iraq, which still owes Kuwait reparations from the Gulf War, declared victory over Islamic State in December, having taken back all the territory the jihadist group captured in 2014 and 2015. Its fighters have also been largely defeated in neighbouring Syria.
On Wednesday, the United Nations launched a two-year Recovery and Resilience programme designed to help Iraq's government fast-track the social dimensions of reconstruction.
"It will revitalise areas that are at risk of violence, and support broad political participation and inclusive social development," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
"The ...programme will help those who have suffered most."
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference his country was committed to supporting reconstruction in Iraq and would focus on infrastructure projects.
The reconstruction conference is taking place two weeks before Kuwait celebrates its Liberation Day from Iraq.
Iraq invaded in 1990, leading to defeat by a U.S.-led coalition and more than a decade of sanctions.
Iraq's reparations payments were suspended in 2014 after the Islamic State takeover but have resumed, and Baghdad is set to hand over 0.5 percent of its oil proceeds in 2018 and escalate annually until the end of 2021 in order to pay off a remaining US$4.6 billion owed to Kuwait.
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Ahmed Hagagy; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein and Maha El Dahan; Editing by John Stonestreet)