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US Congress to Examine Administration's Use of Funds for Iraq War - 2004-04-20

Lawmakers are examining a claim by the author of a new book that the Bush administration used money designated for the war on terrorism for Iraq war preparations, before Congress approved action in Iraq. The White House and Pentagon have denied funds were used specifically for Iraq without the knowledge of Congress.

The account by journalist and Washington Post editor Bob Woodward says some of the money allocated by Congress for Afghanistan and anti-terrorism needs, was used by the Pentagon to prepare for the invasion of Iraq.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are seeking more details.

The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Congressman David Obey, wants what he calls "a full, detailed and immediate accounting."

Mr. Obey was a key critic of the administration during debate on two "supplemental" spending bills the administration requested after the Iraq war had begun.

He says the Iraq war resolution was approved in October 2002 with the understanding the administration would keep Congress fully informed about its actions.

Mr. Obey's view was echoed by other Democrats, such as Congressman Jim McDermott who spoke on the floor of the House.

"Instead of openly telling Congress and the American people when he wanted to take out Saddam, the president secretly diverted $700 million from the war in Afghanistan to prepare for the invasion in Iraq, without telling the Congress, $700 million meant to help find and deal with Osama Bin Laden on behalf of the September 11th victims, on behalf of America," he said.

Republicans say the allegations raised in Mr. Woodward's book "lack specificity", warning that no one should draw any conclusions until pre-war spending is reviewed.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is also examining the claims in the book.

The White House denies it failed to keep Congress fully informed about how money was being spent before the war.

Spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday emergency funding approved by Congress after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks provided "broad discretion" in how funds were used.

The Pentagon has said about $178 million spent before Congress overwhelmingly approved the Iraq resolution was not aimed specifically at war preparations.

Since publication of his book, Mr. Woodward has said in interviews that Congress was kept "totally in the dark" about spending prior to the war, for a range of military projects, including facility improvements in Kuwait, to support the U.S. military buildup.