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US Officials:  Delay in Approving Iraq Funds Could Setback Progress - 2003-09-25

Senate and House committees have been holding another day of hearings on the Bush administration request for $87 billion for stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan. The top U.S. administrator in Iraq, and the number two official in the Defense Department, told lawmakers Congress must move quickly to approve funds for Iraq, or risk a deterioration of the situation there.

Paul Bremer, who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, first went before the Senate Armed Services Committee to convey the same message he delivered earlier in the week.

"This request is urgent. The urgency concerning military operations is self-evident. But the funds for non-military action in Iraq are equally urgent," he said.

Mr. Bremer faced the strongest challenge from Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy, who in recent days has been the sharpest critic of administration handling of Iraq.

"This is an insult to the troops and an insult to the Congress. We want to know where the policy is. Where the policy is," he said.

But Senator Kennedy has himself faced criticism from Republicans for his allegations concerning administration justifications for the war in Iraq.

Mr. Bremer got a warmer reception from Republicans on the Senate committee. Republican Senator John McCain asked him what the impact would be, if Congress failed to approve the funds the administration requested.

"It would create a situation of much greater insecurity," he said. "I think we would find more of the population turning against us. I think we would find more attacks on coalition forces. Eventually, Iraq would recede into a situation of chaos, not dissimilar from what was experienced in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, and we would find another breeding ground for terrorists. So, I think it's a rather grim outlook."

In the spotlight before the House Armed Services Committee was Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

Some Democrats blame him and what they call other "architects" of pre-Iraq war planning for problems American troops are facing, and want him to resign.

Mr. Wolfowitz said success in Iraq is crucial to prevailing in the war on terror. "The brave young Americans who liberated Iraq from the clutches of one of the bloodiest and most sadistic tyrants in modern history, have brought us to the possibility of a major victory in the war on terrorism," he said. "Completing that victory requires not just winning the war in Iraq, but winning the peace as well."

Mr. Wolfowitz and Mr. Bremer paid tribute to the member of the Iraqi Governing Council, Aquila al-Hashimi, who died of wounds she suffered in a gun attack.

Mr. Bremer called news that the United Nations is withdrawing additional staff from Iraq "regrettable." But he said the United Nations will continue to play a vital role, echoing a statement from the White House.

Next week, another key Senate committee plans to take up the Iraq spending request. Similar action is planned by the House Appropriations Committee as the legislation moves toward expected approval by both chambers.