U.N. unveils plans to step up efforts in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- Five years after bombings forced the United Nations to pull out of Iraq, the world body is back. It announced plans Wednesday to help Iraq rebuild and create jobs after complaints the government has been unable or unwilling to spend its oil riches.

An agreement signed by the U.N. and the Iraqi government outlined a series of steps to help the Iraqis improve spending.

With a budget of $2.2 billion through 2010, the U.N. hopes to use its know-how to train Iraqi bureaucrats and create incentives to develop the country's private sector. One of the main goals is to create jobs in a country where widespread unemployment could undermine recent security gains if young men lose hope in their futures and turn to extremism.

The ambitious plans came ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Aug. 19, 2003, bombing at the U.N.'s Baghdad headquarters that killed 22 people, including top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The United Nations pulled out of Iraq in October 2003 after a second bombing at the organization's hotel headquarters and a spate of attacks on humanitarian workers.

It maintained a presence with Iraqi employees and allowed 35 international staffers to return in August 2004 but operations were sharply curtailed.

The current U.N. envoy to Iraq, Staffan di Mistura, said it was time to change that.

"There are moments when we wonder whether all this was worthwhile or not," he said at a memorial ceremony Wednesday. "I can tell you that what we are doing at the moment is sending a signal that the U.N. is back. The U.N. is back to stay."

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