Arab scientists launch initiative to rebuild Iraqi scientific community
AMMAN (AFP) Jun 29, 2004
The Emirates-based Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF) announced here Tuesday the launch of an initiative aimed at engaging and developing Iraq's scientific and technology community.

Organisers of the initiative told a news conference in Amman that the scheme, prepared in cooperation with UNESCO, the UN's educational and scientific organisation, was aimed at bolstering 12 key sectors in Iraq.

They identified them as health, water resources, environment, engineering, energy, agriculture, veterinary and livestock, biotech and genetics, communications, applied material science, basic science and IT.

The president of ASTF, a non-governmental organisation, Abdel Aziz Najjar, told reporters that planning for the initiative took several months, during which time a team criss-crossed Iraq and interviewed 200 experts and academics.

The team comprising 16 Arab and Iraqi experts also visited scores of Iraqi facilities, including universities and research centers to identify their needs, he said.

Their findings set the basis for the initiative called "Engaging Iraq's Science and Technology Community in the Development Process".

The ASTF estimates it will need 50 million dollars in the short-term to carry out several projects in Iraq, which suffered a brain drain during more than a decade of international sanctions under Saddam Hussein's rule.

It also plans to set up an international fund later this year, Najjar said.

Iraqi scientist Dakhel Jrio said he expects the initiative to create jobs for Iraq's renowned scientific community as well as help rebuild the country's battered infrastructure.

"Iraqi scientists need to be reassured concerning Iraq and their future," said Iraqi physicist Jaafar Jaafar.