© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2003
WASHINGTON -- The Bechtel Group has emerged as one of the top two contenders for the major contract to reconstruct Iraq, the New York Times reports, quoting unnamed people involved in the bidding.
There was disagreement about the identity of the second competitor for the contract. Halliburton, the corporation where Vice President Dick Cheney served as chief executive from 1995 until mid 2000, is no longer in the running, a fact that was first reported by Newsweek on Friday and was acknowledged by an international development agency official.
The Bechtel Group is considered one of the largest contractors in the world, and its board includes a former secretary of state, George Shultz.
Officials with the U.S. Agency for International Development said Friday that a final decision had been delayed until next week because "outstanding issues are holding this up," said Ellen Yount, spokeswoman for the agency.
The New York Times, quoting unnamed sources, reported that the chief issue is whether the government will insure the winning company against claims for property damage, injuries or death during work in Iraq. That could save the firm millions of dollars.
The winning firm will have a toehold in one of the most lucrative building programs in decades, a task that will cost from $25-billion to $100-billion.
The way the contracts are being awarded has angered U.S. allies. Only American firms were asked to submit bids, a move that British officials have protested, saying that the United States has unfairly cut them out of the reconstruction contracts even as their armed forces are fighting beside the American military.
JACKSONVILLE -- Information that an American pilot missing since the 1991 Gulf War may have been seen alive in the custody of Iraqi authorities in the past month adds hope that a military search can resolve his fate, Sen. Bill Nelson said Friday.
"I believe he is still alive," Nelson said. "The question is: Can we find him and bring him home alive?"
Nelson said reports, the source of which he did not identify, indicated Navy Capt. Scott Speicher had been seen alive in Iraq within the past month.
BONITA SPRINGS -- Former President George Bush, who directed the 1991 Persian Gulf War, said Friday that he's confident that his son will make the right decisions in the second Gulf War now under way.
He admitted to feelings of deja vu when he watched the troops being deployed for war.
"I'm at the stage now of doing what I encourage everybody else in America not to do: That is, I sit there and talk back to the TV set," he said. "If I don't like something, I say, 'You old son of a gun, you're out of there -- click!"'
He and former first lady Barbara Bush joined their other politician son, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Friday in southwestern Florida to support the governor's Family Literacy Initiative.