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E-mail fuels new call for Cheney probe

Pentagon memo on deals at crux

WASHINGTON -- A newly unearthed Pentagon e-mail about Halliburton contracts in Iraq prompted fresh calls on Capitol Hill yesterday for probes into whether Vice President Dick Cheney helped his old firm get the deals.

The e-mail, reported in the latest edition of Time magazine, provided "clear evidence" of a relationship between Cheney and multibillion-dollar contracts Halliburton has received for rebuilding Iraq, Senator Patrick Leahy said.

"It totally contradicts the vice president's previous assertions of having no contact" with federal officials about Halliburton's Iraq deals, Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in a conference call with reporters.

"It would be irresponsible not to hold hearings," Leahy said.

The March 2003 Pentagon e-mail says action on a no-bid Halliburton contract to rebuild Iraq's oil industry was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. Cheney was chief executive officer of the oilfield services giant from 1995 until he joined George W. Bush's presidential ticket in 2000.

Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, urged the chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, Susan M. Collins, Republican of Maine, to subpoena e-mails and any other evidence of contacts between the US Army Corps of Engineers and Cheney's office on Halliburton's Iraq contracts, Lautenberg's spokesman said.

Cheney's office rebutted over the weekend allegations that it had any role in the Halliburton contract process, and a senior adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaign, Mary Matalin, reiterated this yesterday.

"The vice president had no operational involvement with letting of any contracts," she said on NBC's "Today" show.

Only the majority party can schedule hearings, and Republicans control both houses.

US officials have estimated that the Texas company's Iraq contracts, for everything from oil repairs to meals for the troops, could total some $18 billion.

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