U.S., Iraqi Opposition to Meet
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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Top State and Defense Department officials plan to meet Friday with six Iraqi civilian opposition leaders in hopes of patching up differences that have impaired their effectiveness.
The head of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, is expected to attend, along with leaders from Kurdish groups opposed to Saddam Hussein, among others.
The INC describes itself as the umbrella group for the Iraqi opposition and has received millions of dollars in U.S. assistance.
But the group has had strained relations with the State Department, dating from the Clinton administration. As a result, some of the oversight of the INC that had been under the State Department’s purview is being transferred to the Pentagon.
Officials declined comment on the transfer but Danielle Pletka, of the American Enterprise Institute, said ``the problem goes to the culture of the State Department. They don’t want to associate themselves with an opposition group.″
Officials from the State and Defense departments did not say which officials the Iraqis plan to meet with. Pletka and sources close to the INC said the Iraqis will meet with Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith and Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman.
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the administration proposed last May to allocate $8 million to the INC for humanitarian, communications and other activities for the June-September period. He said the administration has not received a response to the proposal from the INC.
The source close to the INC said one goal of the Friday meeting is to clear up disagreements between State and the INC over the $8 million.