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US cites poor financial controls in suspending funds for Iraqi opposition

FYI. From today's Jordan Times.
URL at end of article.

Salwa de Vree,
Leiden, The Netherlands.

US cites poor financial controls in suspending funds for Iraqi opposition

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has suspended funding for the leading Iraqi opposition group, 
citing poor bookkeeping. 

Some consider the group a key to any effort to topple Saddam Hussein, but it has been criticised as 
ineffective, unorganised and without a capable fighting force. 

The State Department informed the Iraqi National Congress this week that the suspension would be in 
effect “until adequate financial controls are in place.” 

Still, the department considers the group an important player in the opposition to Hussein, Gregg 
Sullivan, spokesman for the Near Eastern Affairs bureau, said Saturday. 

A spokesman for the group, Sharif Ali Bin Al Hussein, said the action was premature and blamed 
State Department officials who don't want aggressive action against Iraq. 

Some top department aides have praised the organisation, he said. Sullivan, the State Department 
official, said the suspension is completely based on an inspector general's audit that found the 
group could not properly account for its spending. No financial wrongdoing was discovered. 

“The financial controls were insufficient and did not match requirements under US laws,” Sullivan 
said, contending the group failed to heed warnings since June to institute the controls. “They 
can't account for the money that was given.” 

Al Hussein said the group was given until Jan. 15 to institute new financial controls and said the 
State Department was told the deadline would be met. 

He said certain department officials, including Clinton administration holdovers, “want to appease 
Saddam. They want to contain him and keep him in his box and don't want to take Saddam on as the 
head of a terrorist state.” 

The London-based confederation of opposition groups has considerable backing in Congress, but 
critics have said its members aren't prepared to combat Saddam on the ground, even with US backing. 

Congress appropriated $25 million for the Iraqi opposition, with at least $10 million to be used 
inside Iraq. But Hussein argued that administration officials would not let the group use the money 
inside the country and therefore the opposition group rejected the entire amount. 

The State Department went ahead on its own and sent the group about $12million in 2001. 

The money was primarily used to collect information on abuses by Saddam's government, present the 
findings to the United Nations and other countries, and save it for later use if there's a war 
crimes tribunal. “Senior level officials have been very encouraging” about the opposition's work, 
Hussein said. 

In the background of the dispute is a wider controversy over policy towards Iraq in the war on 

Hawks in the Bush administration, led by Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, have been 
pressing for the US military to take on Iraq and finish off Saddam, who was left in power after the 
Gulf War. Other administration officials, however, have argued to keep the focus on the anti-terror 
war against Osama Ben Laden's Al Qaeda network. 

Advocates of targeting Iraq say Saddam is trying to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons 
programmes that UN inspectors tried to dismantle after the 1991 Gulf War.
Inspectors have not been allowed into Iraq since departing ahead of US air strikes in late 1998.


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