Thursday, October 23, 2003

As is often the case with these kind of events, there's a hugely surreal air about the proceedings here in Madrid.

We're reporting on what's needed to rebuild Iraq's schools, hospitals, transport system, electricity infrastructure.

The figures involved are mind-boggling; the US says $55 billion is required over the next five years to rebuild Iraq and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is urging delegates to "give generously." The whole conference is the world's biggest exercise in tin-rattling.

Yet we report on these decisions and pledges that will shape the future of Iraq from inside a cavernous press centre. We watch the proceedings on TV screens which pipe the pictures from the conference floor several hundred metres away.

Even if we had the time to go and talk to the delegates making these monumental decisions we couldn't; there's a security cordon around the main conference venue -- and the press aren't allowed in. We're forced to rely for our information on those delegates who can be persuaded to walk over to the press centre.

Iraq seems a million miles away.


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