Baghdad, Iraq Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday the United States would speed delivery to Iraq of billions of dollars in reconstruction aid that Congress approved last year.
Powell disclosed the plan during a news conference in which he vowed that terrorist violence in Iraq would be defeated -- only to be challenged by an Iraqi journalist who defended the right of Iraqis to "kick out" occupiers.
Powell made an unannounced nine-hour visit here, the highest-ranking U.S. official to come to Iraq since American administrators turned political power over to an Iraqi interim government on June 28.
The interim government received a boost Friday as NATO countries agreed to begin training Iraqi security forces. Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said a 40-member advance team would leave for Iraq as soon as possible.
Powell met with President Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer and Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh. He had met with Prime Minister Ayad Allawi on Thursday in Saudi Arabia.
Powell offered no figures of projected aid deliveries. But Saleh said $9 billion would be obligated by December.
"We want to rebuild the infrastructure. We want to create jobs," he said. "We want to show the Iraqi people that this money is being used for their benefit and do it as quickly as we can."
U.S. lawmakers and others have said the administration had moved too slowly in converting $18 billion in reconstruction aid into projects on the ground in Iraq. To date only $458 million has been spent, officials said, blaming red tape.
"Reconstruction and security are two sides of the same coin," Powell said. Improving the economy and restoring vital services such as water and electricity "contribute to a sense of safety and a secure environment," he said.
Powell heaped praise on the Iraqi leadership for their attempts to put the country on a democratic path despite great danger from armed opponents.
"It's important to note the leaders of Iraq are very courageous, they put themselves at risk every day," Powell said. "We have to make sure that these insurgents understand that we will not be deterred ... . The terrorists will be defeated, there can be no other option."