WASHINGTON - The U.S. government is paying a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. $24-million to get Iraq's oil facilities working and to distribute fuel within the country, an expanded role for a company that initially was hired only to put out oil well fires and make emergency repairs.
The new project, awarded Sunday, is the fifth "task order" the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given Houston-based KBR under a sole-source contract awarded March 8. The government is paying $77.2-million for the projects, according to documents released Wednesday.
Some Democrats in Congress have criticized the selection of KBR and the Corps of Engineers' subsequent handling of the contract, in large part because of Halliburton's ties to the Bush administration. Dick Cheney was chief executive of Halliburton from 1995 until 2000, when he left to run for vice president.
Halliburton and Cheney's office repeatedly have said that the vice president played no role in selecting KBR, which has long worked for the military.Tape called new talk by Hussein
WASHINGTON - An audiotape carrying what purports to be the voice of Saddam Hussein surfaced Wednesday, the first since the Iraqi president and his government were ousted by U.S. forces last month.
Saying he was speaking "from inside great Iraq," Hussein called on the Iraqi people to take part in a "secret style of struggle ... to kick the enemy out from our country." The 14-minute tape was apparently recorded after April 28 because the speaker referred to demonstrations that took place on that day in Hussein's hometown of Tikrit to celebrate his 66th birthday.
The tape was handed Monday in Baghdad to a reporter of the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald by two Iraqis who said they had wanted to give it to Arab-language broadcasters Al-Jazeera or Al-Arabiya but were afraid to approach their Baghdad offices, which are guarded by U.S. and allied forces.
U.S. intelligence analysts began studying the tape Wednesday, but a senior administration official said it would take time because the government has only a rough copy downloaded from the newspaper's Web site.Pentagon: Trailer looks like lab
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon said Wednesday that it may have recovered an Iraqi mobile biological weapons lab, the first such announcement since the start of the war to disarm the government of President Saddam Hussein.
American forces in Iraq are doing tests on a trailer that matches the description of such laboratories, given by various sources including a defector who says he helped operate one, Defense Department officials said.
"On the smoking gun, I don't know," Stephen Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said when asked whether this was a breakthrough in the search for weapons of mass destruction.
Cambone also announced that 2,100 people will be sent to Iraq to augment the weapons hunt as well as the search for information on government leaders, terrorists, war crimes, atrocities and Iraqi prisoners of war.U.S.: Many looted items found
WASHINGTON - U.S. Customs agents announced Wednesday that investigators, working with military officials and Iraqi authorities, have recovered about 700 artifacts and located 39,400 manuscripts that disappeared from Baghdad's National Museum of Antiquities during chaos and looting that followed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
A Homeland Security Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, said the recovered artifacts include the broken statue of an Assyrian from the ninth century B.C. and a chest filled with valuable manuscripts and parchments.