E-mail 'links Cheney to Halliburton deal'

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The Independent US

The links between Dick Cheney and the Halliburton oil services company were under new scrutiny yesterday with the revelation of a Pentagon memo suggesting that the award to Halliburton of Iraq contracts was "co-ordinated" with the Vice-President's office.

The links between Dick Cheney and the Halliburton oil services company were under new scrutiny yesterday with the revelation of a Pentagon memo suggesting that the award to Halliburton of Iraq contracts was "co-ordinated" with the Vice-President's office.

The memo, reported in the latest issue of Time magazine, dates from March 2003, just before the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, and deals with Halliburton's involvement in the multibillion-dollar contract RIO, or "Restore Iraqi Oil".

The e-mail says that the arrangements for RIO were approved by Douglas Feith, the under-Secretary of Defence for policy and the third-highest ranking civilian official at the Pentagon, "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no problems since action has been co-ordinated w [with] VP's [Vice-President's] office".

Mr Cheney was chief executive of the Texas-based Halliburton from 1995 until he was picked to be George Bush's running mate in the summer of 2000. Since then, he has said repeatedly that he has had no interest in, nor involvement with, the company. But the relationship has never ceased to dog him.

Since the war ended, Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg Brown Root have been awarded almost $6bn (£3.3bn) of contracts in Iraq, and have 24,000 employees in the Gulf. But they have also been accused of overcharging the US government.

The Pentagon is currently refusing to pay $160m in payments for meals provided to troops in Iraq by KBR, after an audit showed "numerous items missing" from an internal accounting provided by the company.

Last night a Cheney spokes-man denied the Vice-President's office had any part in the allocation of Iraq reconstruction contracts, reiterating that Mr Cheney "has had no involvement whatsoever in government contracting matters since he left private business to run for public office".

An official familiar with the e-mail insisted that it indicated only that the White House was given a standard courtesy call notifying that a contract decision had already been made and was about to be announced publicly. Halliburton itself believes the continuing controversy over its Iraqi activities is purely political.

Nonetheless the new questions are the last thing the White House needs, as Mr Bush's approval ratings tumble and public doubts mount over the Iraq war.

In an administration dominated by hawks, Mr Cheney has been perhaps the biggest hawk of all. From the start he was a vociferous advocate of military action to remove Saddam. He has become arguably the most influential Vice-President in modern US history and is often depicted as the real power behind the Bush throne.

But this perception - along with the continuing focus on Halliburton - has also helped make him the most unpopular senior member of the administration.

The President has declared over and over again that Mr Cheney will remain on the ticket in November, but rumours persist he may be dropped should Mr Bush's ratings continue to fall.

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