US briefs Iraq Chaldean head, Vatican on aid after critique

ROME — A senior American diplomat briefed the leader of Iraq's Chaldean Catholics on U.S. development aid Wednesday after the cardinal accused the United States of failing to help rebuild Christian villages devastated by the Islamic State group.

Mark Green, administrator of the State Department's USAID development agency, said he disagreed with Cardinal Luis Sako's claims at a Vatican news conference Tuesday that promised U.S. aid for Iraq's religious minorities hadn't materialized.

But Green said Sako's complaints were "a reminder that it is not only important to execute and deliver results, it is (important) to be able to constantly stay in touch and make people aware of what we're doing and involve them in guiding it."

Green was in Rome to tell Vatican officials about on-the-ground results from U.S. development assistance to Iraq's religious minorities and about the near-doubling of aid to about $300 million since last year.

The funds are being used to help rebuild water and electricity systems, provide security for schools and other projects meant to help Christians and other religious minorities who fled during the conflict with IS return to Iraq and build a viable future.

Green declined to speculate why Sako seemed unaware of how the U.S. aid was used. He said he viewed their meeting, scheduled before the cardinal's comments, as "an opportunity to show him some of the work that we're doing, both directly in his constituency (and) throughout the region in northern Iraq."

Sako had strongly criticized U.S. policy in the region, suggesting the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which gave way to years of instability that facilitated the birth of the Islamic State group, was responsible for the exodus of Christians from communities that have existed since the time of Jesus.

Asked about U.S. aid aimed at encouraging them to return, Sako said it hadn't materialized.

"There are promises, but the reality is that there's been nothing up to now," Sako said after a Vatican briefing Tuesday.

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