A report in Sunday's New York Times says the Bush administration may have tried to influence Iraq's January elections by covertly supporting certain political parties.

The report cites an article written by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that will appear in the coming issue of The New Yorker  magazine. Mr. Hersh asserts the administration proceeded with the plan despite Congressional objections.

A National Security Council spokesman told the New York Times  that, in the end, the president decided not to help individual candidates for Iraqi office. As the newspaper noted, the response did not make clear whether certain parties were helped.

The spokesman added that White House officials were concerned about what they saw as extensive Iranian support for pro-Shiite parties.

President Bush has repeatedly called for free and fair elections in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries.