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Marines meet with Iraqi governor, layout construction plans

24 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Representatives from the Coalition Provisional Authority, I Marine Expeditionary Force and the government of the Al Anbar Province met here April 24 to discuss future infrastructure reconstruction projects in the region.

The governor of the Al Anbar Province, Abdul Karim Barjis Ezziddeen Al Rawy, attended the meeting and offered his suggestions for the impending efforts.

"We wanted to meet with the government in the region to identify the most important projects to improve the quality of life for the people here," said Col. Jesse R. Barker, civil affairs coordinator for the 1st Marine Division.

Gov. Barjis and his team previously wrote a letter to Iraqi Ambassador Paul Bremer requesting money and aid to the Al Anbar community. He asked for new schools and healthcare facilities and improvement for the province's electrical, water and sewage

According to Navy Capt. Mark A. Handley, deputy commander for the I MEF Engineer Group, it's the mission of the CPA to assist the Iraqi people in the restoration of the country's infrastructure.

For that reason, Barjis' letter was answered with action.

The CPA's Project Management Office has been allocated $540 million for restoration projects in the Al Anbar Province over the next few years. Additional supplemental funding was recently made available for immediate use in the cities of Ar Ramadi and Fallujah.

Both of the cities have been affected by recent hostilities between Marines and anti-Iraqi fighters. Buildings were destroyed, and the cities' public works were affected and are in urgent need of repair.

Milton Ludington, PMO representative, presented several projects to the governor and his group to see what was most pressing to the Iraqi people.

"Our goal is to align our program to that of the Al Anbar Province," Ludington explained. "We want to know what your priorities are so we can get started."

During the meeting, Barjis made it clear that his people need a new hospital equipped with modern healthcare equipment.

Ludington explained that almost $17 million will go toward the construction of a hospital, along with several new clinics in both cities.

Barjis also suggested the improvement for rural roads outside the cities.

"Nearly one half of the population of Fallujah lives on the outskirts of the city," the governor said. "We can't forget those people because they depend on agriculture. If they have good roads, that will help them out a lot."

After the meeting adjourned, Handley explained that all the information gathered at the meeting will be presented to Bremer, who is expected to approve the projects and allocation of funds almost immediately.

"Once we get approval to start, we can get to work," Handley added. "We'll hire Iraqi contractors to do the work."

Some of the projects will be managed by PMO, and others will be managed by the I MEF Engineer Group, mostly sailors from the Navy's Engineering Field Division, Atlantic based in Norfolk, Va.

A positive benefit from hiring local firms to carry out the work will be the increased amount of employment opportunities for the people here.

"With such large projects on the horizon," Handley said, "There will be a huge number of jobs available."

Many of the projects will be completed within a few months; others may take up to two years.

Before leaving the meeting, Barjis took time to thank the Coalition for its assistance to he Al Anbar Province.

"When we start these projects and get them done, the people will start to realize that you really are here for good reasons," Barjis said. "Things will definitely change for the better."