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Bush to request 80-billion-dollar Iraq supplement: congressman
The Sierra Times
Posted: Friday December 24,2004 - 12:31:40 pm

BAGHDAD (AFP) - US President George W. Bush is expected to seek authorisation for spending of an additional 80 billion dollars in Iraq, the head of a visiting congressional delegation said.

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"In early February, there will be ... a supplemental appropriation in addition to the 2006 budget for defence submitted to Congress," Jim Kolbe, Republican congressman from Arizona, told reporters.

He estimated the extra funding to range between 75 to 80 billion dollars.

"It would make it the largest supplemental appropriation ... a very substantial amount that would cover not only defence but also some of the foreign assistance," said Kolbe, who travelled to Iraq with four other Congressmen.

Bush will make the new request after he is sworn in for a second term in January.

Kolbe is chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the House of Representatives appropriations committee, which is responsible for deciding how money is spent on supporting foreign governments and operations.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was also in Iraq visiting troops, promised Friday that the extra funds would be spent on equipment for ground forces stationed in the country in 2005 and 2006.

"It would provide funds for equipment that would go to ground forces -- army and marines," he told marines at Camp Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

He said the number of US troops in Iraq has already been boosted to 150,000 from 138,000 ahead of January's landmark elections.

The US administration has been criticised for not deploying more troops to Iraq with better armour to deal with the insurgency it has faced virtually since the ouster of Saddam Hussein 's regime in April last year.

Kolbe was very critical of the pace of spending on reconstruction in Iraq given that 87 billion of supplemental funding for operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan was approved in October 2003 by Congress on the assumption that they were "urgently needed."

Of the estimated 18.3 billion dollars allocated for reconstruction projects in Iraq, through October, roughly one billion dollars had been spent with officials citing security concerns as the main obstacle.

Kolbe also said there has been "little planning" in the way funds are spent as the White House requested earlier this year that more of the money be diverted from infrastructure to the training of Iraqi security forces.

"My subcommittee has raised serious concerns," he said. "All and all, we have been frustrated with the pace of reconstruction."