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ABU DHABI - Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said Sunday there could be regional catastrophe if Baghdad fails in its pacification and reconstruction process, and urged the international community to help.

He was speaking at a meeting in Abu Dhabi in the presence of several donor countries, the United Nations and the European Union.

The aim of the meeting, labelled the Preparatory Meeting for International Compact with Iraq and held at Baghdad's initiative, was to prepare for the possible launch of a new partnership between Iraq and the international community.

"The future of Iraq is essential for the future of the Middle East," Saleh said. "Its success will mean regional success also... but its failure would be catastrophic for the entire region."

The deputy premier and several members of the Baghdad government tried at the one-day gathering to convince the international community to help Iraq develop economically despite the insecurity plaguing the country more than three years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Saleh stressed that Iraq "needs international consensus for its reconstruction... the success of which will not be easy because of the heritage" of the Saddam regime.

During the meeting aimed at creating "a real and serious partnership between Iraq and the international community," Baghdad would present "a roadmap... on its policies in different areas" in order to make Iraq a country "at peace with itself and with its neighbours", Saleh said.

A statement released by the meeting's organisers said the Iraqi government recognised that good governance and security were essential if progress was to be made "in all other areas, including an economic revival".

UN deputy secretary general Mark Malloch Brown reviewed progress made in Iraq during the transition period.

"We have for this compact two driving dynamics. One is how do we address the human security needs of all Iraqis, and second how do we bring (about) the process of radical change in Iraq?" he said.

"We must encourage Iraqis to execute their programme by themselves," Malloch Brown added, referring to security, political and economic development.

The deputy UN chief underlined the need "to respond to the security needs of all Iraqis" and to contribute to "the process of radical change in Iraq".

During the transition period after the March 2003 US-led invasion, an international fund to rebuild Iraq was established, with contributions from several Western and Arab countries.

Representatives from the donor states of France, Japan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States attended Sunday's meeting.

The foreign ministers of France and the UAE, Philippe Douste-Blazy and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan, were also present at the opening session.

Saleh later told reporters that the "international compact with Iraq" will be discussed during a meeting of donors countries in New York on September 18, as well as during the annual World Bank-International Monetary Fund conference in Singapore on September 18-20 and during a meeting slated for early October in Baghdad.

"We hope the document will be adopted before the end of the year," he said.

Iraqi Finance Minister Bayan Jabr Solagh told AFP that Japan planned to extend a 3.5-billion-dollar loan to Iraq.

Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani said that Iraq would finance its development plans "partly from oil revenues, which are expected to reach 25 to 30 billion dollars this year."

He said Iraq was currently pumping 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, of which it is exporting 1.7 million bpd.

An Iraqi delegate, who did not wish to be named, earlier told AFP that the Iraqi government "wants to take charge of its own security and economic affairs, since so far it has depended on the international fund" run by the UN.

09/10/2006 16:59 GMT

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