||Congress inquiry links Cheney aide to Halliburton deal
David Teather in New York
Tuesday June 15, 2004
Fresh concern has been raised that the American vice-president, Dick Cheney, may have played a role in the decision to award his former company Halliburton a $7bn contract for work in postwar Iraq.
According to a congressional investigation, Mr Cheney's top aide, Lewis Libby, was involved in high-level talks in October 2002 which led to the firm securing the contract.
Although there is no evidence that Mr Cheney wielded any influence, the inquiry's findings appear to undermine claims that he had no prior knowledge of the contract.
Halliburton was handed the work for emergency repairs on Iraq's oilfields without a competitive tender.
The company has become a political liability for Mr Cheney, who pocketed $36m when he quit the firm to join George Bush's election campaign in 2000. The administration was accused of cronyism after the contract was announced and the firm has since been dogged by claims of overcharging and bribery.
In the midst of the din over the oilfields contract in September last year, Mr Cheney told NBC television that he had "absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of, in any way shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government".
In a letter to Mr Cheney, the California democrat Henry Waxman, who has led the congressional investigation, said the circumstances "appear to contradict your assertions".
He said that the process for awarding the contract also countered the administration's repeated assertions that no political appointees were involved in the decision.
Mr Waxman said the process had been managed by a team of political appointees led by Michael Mobbs, a special adviser to Douglas Feith, the Pentagon's under-secretary for defence policy.
He detailed a meeting in October of a foreign policy body in Washington, attended by Mr Libby, where Mr Mobbs had put forward plans to hand the contract to Halliburton.
Mr Waxman asked Mr Cheney to hand over any records of meetings or discussions his office might have had in which the contract was discussed. He also asked for clarification on an email that recently surfaced from Stephen Browning, of the Corps of Engineers, to Mr Feith on March 5 2003, which said the contract "has been coordinated with VP's [vice-president's] office".
In another blow to its reputation, Halliburton confirmed at the weekend that the US securities and exchange commission is investigating claims that a consortium it was part of bribed Nigerian officials to win a contract to build a natural gas plant.