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US House Overwhelmingly Approves Measure on Iraq Corruption

The U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly (395 to 21) approved a resolution crafted by majority Democrats criticizing the State Department for withholding information on corruption in the Iraqi government. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill on debate over the non-binding measure:

In a recent hearing, U.S. House lawmakers heard a former judge, Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, detail corruption that he asserts permeates every level of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

At the same time, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, Larry Butler, cited bilateral diplomatic sensitivities with Iraq for the State Department's refusal to supply in a public setting testimony and documents assessing in detail Iraqi government commitment to anti-corruption efforts.

The resolution approved Tuesday grew out of that hearing. It rebukes the State Department for what is called abuse of the classification process aimed at withholding from the American people and Congress the extent of Iraqi corruption.

California Democrat Henry Waxman chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"The Bush administration is hiding the truth while seeking hundreds of billions of dollars and placing our troops in danger, and we cannot allow this to happen," he said.

Republicans asserted that the measure was little more than another effort by Democrats to score political points and mollify the most vocal Iraq war critics in their party.

"This resolution is just the latest find in the [Democrat's] frantic search for proxy anti-war votes that the [Democratic] leadership has staged to feed an increasingly restive left wing of their party," said Virginia Republican Tom Davis.

Though it has no binding effect, the resolution calls for the rescinding of a directive prohibiting U.S. officials from providing broad statements or assessments that judge or characterize the quality of Iraqi governance, or the Maliki government's determination to deal with corruption.

Although Republicans accused Democrats of politicizing the resolution and criticized the way it was brought it to the floor, the overwhelming 395 to 21 vote reflected concern across the political spectrum about the impact of corruption on U.S. efforts in Iraq.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's senior adviser on Iraq, David Satterfield, denied in remarks to reporters Tuesday that the State Department tried to downplay corruption or withhold information from Congress.

Satterfield said retroactive classification of certain material was aimed at protecting individual privacy and to prevent unproven allegations of corruption from becoming public prematurely.

In his testimony on Capitol Hill earlier this month, former Iraqi anti-corruption judge al-Radhi estimated losses to the Iraqi government from corruption at $18 billion, saying corruption has helped worsen sectarian strife and hampered political reconciliation.