WASHINGTON - The U.S. government is considering opening up billions of dollars of Iraqi reconstruction contracts to all countries, reversing a policy that restricted them to countries that supported the U.S. war in Iraq.
Under the new policy, any country -- except nations such as Iran that the U.S. has designated sponsors of terrorism -- could bid for prime contracts to rebuild Iraq. Details are being finalized with the United States Trade Representative.
In December, Paul Wolfowitz, deputy defense secretary, said the U.S. would prohibit non-coalition countries from bidding for work awarded out of the $18.4 billion that Congress set aside for Iraqi reconstruction. In a memo, Mr. Wolfowitz said the move was necessary to protect U.S. "security interests."
At the time, he argued that the decision to exclude countries such as France and Germany would encourage countries to offer support to the U.S.-led coalition. But critics argued that it would hamper the Bush administration's efforts to rebuild international support after a series of bitter disputes with France and Germany before the Iraq war. The European Commission at the time criticized the policy, saying it was "no time to reopen old wounds".
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