U.N. recommends U.S. repay Iraq

A U.N. auditing board has recommended that the United States reimburse Iraq up to $208.5 million for contracting work carried out by KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, in the last two years.

The International Advisory and Monitoring Board of the Development Fund for Iraq said in a report that the work, paid for with Iraqi oil proceeds, was either overpriced or done poorly by the Virginia-based company.

Compiled from an array of Pentagon, United States government and private auditors, the report did not specify how or what work has been done poorly.

Halliburton said its subsidiary had cooperated with the auditing process and that questions raised had to do with documentation rather than the costs incurred by the company. It pointed to findings by the Pentagon’s Defense Contract Audit Agency.

“Many of DCAA’s questions have been about the quality of supporting documentation for costs that KBR clearly incurred,” Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann said in an e-mailed statement. “Therefore, it would be completely wrong to say or imply that any of these costs that were incurred at the client’s direction for its benefit are ‘overcharges.'”



Lawmakers scrutinize use of Patroit Act

Lawmakers expressed concern yesterday that the FBI was aggressively pushing the powers of the anti-terrorist USA Patriot Act to access private phone and financial records of ordinary people.

“We should be looking at that very closely,” said Sen. Joseph Biden, (D-Del.) who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It appears to me that this is, if not abused, being close to abused.”

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, agreed, saying the government’s expanded power highlights the risks of balancing national security against individual rights.

“It does point up how dangerous this can be,” said Hagel, who appeared with Biden on ABC’s “This Week.”

Under the Patriot Act, the FBI issues more than 30,000 national security letters allowing the investigations each year, a hundredfold increase over historic norms, The Washington Post reported yesterday, quoting unnamed government sources. The letters, which were first used in the 1970s, give access to people’s phone and e-mail records, as well as financial data and the Internet sites they surf. The 2001 Patriot Act removed the requirement that the records sought be those of someone under suspicion.


AR DEL PLATA, Argentina

Trade zone summit ends without agreement

Leaders from across the Americas ended their tumultuous two-day summit Saturday without agreeing to restart talks on a U.S.-favored free trade zone stretching from Alaska to Chile.

Argentine Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa said the 34-nation summit’s declaration would state two opposing views: one by 29 nations favoring the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, and another by the remaining five saying discussions should wait until after World Trade Organization talks in December.

The decision came after negotiations extended eight hours past the scheduled deadline. Almost all the leaders – including President Bush – left during the discussions and put other negotiators in charge.



36 insurgents killed fighting U.S. assault

Scores of terrified Iraqis fled a besieged town yesterday, waving white flags and hauling their belongings to escape a second day of fighting between U.S. Marines and al-Qaida-led militants along the Syrian border. U.S. and Iraqi troops battled insurgents house-to-house, the U.S. military said.

The U.S. commander of the joint force, Col. Stephen Davis, told The Associated Press late yesterday that his troops had moved “about halfway” through Husaybah, a market town along the Euphrates River about 200 miles northwest of Baghdad.

At least 36 insurgents have been killed since the assault began Saturday and about 200 men have been detained, Davis said.



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