Anti-Saddam Group May Lose Funding
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The leading Iraqi opposition group will lose its U.S. financial support at the end of January unless it comes up with a system that properly accounts for spending, the State Department said Monday.
The aid program for the Iraqi National Congress was temporarily suspended last week. With the Jan. 31 deadline in mind, the group will receive $500,000 to cover operational costs as it acts to reform its accounting system, department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
The INC reacted angrily to the suspension last week, calling it politically motivated.
On Monday, INC spokesman Sharif Ali reaffirmed the allegation, declaring that ``pre-emptive efforts by the Near East Bureau of the State Department to discredit the INC serve no purpose other than to undermine the U.S. president’s declared policy of regime change in Iraq,″ INC spokesman Sharif Ali said.
Ali said the State Department has been systematically blocking INC efforts to carry out operations inside Iraq in violation of Congress’ expressed intent.
Boucher denied that politics motivated suspension of the State Department fund. He said the suspension was prompted by an October report from the department’s inspector general that ordered the money be withheld until the INC ``has implemented adequate and transparent financial controls.″
Spokesman Boucher also said the State Department has found shortcomings in INC television programming into Iraq and its proposals for delivering humanitarian assistance into the country.
But, he said, the main problem centers on the lack of effective accounting.
Most of the money earmarked for Iraqi opposition groups over the years has gone to the INC. The programs are meant to support humanitarian aid, media, war crimes investigations and human rights activities.
In 1997, Congress approved $97 million for military training and equipment for the INC. Nothing has been designated yet for these activities.