Everybody loves the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the UN agency that helps the rural poor help themselves. But talks to replenish its coffers are stalled. Financially strapped OPEC countries (like Saudi Arabia) are holding back, and IFAD is afraid that the US's fiscal 1990 budget request of ``zero'' for the organization is sending the wrong signal. The US says it will fill in the blank when the other donors have committed. And to show it really still loves IFAD, the US attached a letter with the budget request praising the agency. But IFAD still wishes the US would pencil in $35 million or so for now just to get things moving.

One Capitol Hill aide says he doesn't think the administration would bother to file a budget amendment just for that. Besides, he said, IFAD is popular on the Hill. It will eventually gets its money (which, at traditional levels, would be $120 million). Meanwhile, IFAD donors are gathered in The Hague, and agency officials are biting their nails.

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