WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is planning to start passing the tin cup overseas once again, seeking a new round of financial contributions from foreign governments to help pay for the mounting costs of the U.S. troop deployment in the Persian Gulf, administration sources say.
The ability to raise new money abroad could prove critical in determining whether the administration can maintain the multinational coalition in the gulf over a long period of time while giving the embargo against Iraq time to work.
One administration official said that foreign governments would be asked by early next year to help pay for "sustainment" -- that is, the monthly expenses needed to keep the forces in the gulf.
"We will go back to all the countries and say, 'OK, now we have a better fix on how much this is going to cost us a month to maintain this presence,' " one official said. "Obviously the big players are going to be the Saudis, the Kuwaitis and the Japanese."
The new round of U.S. fund-raising is likely to touch off a particularly strong political reaction in Japan, where the government confronted domestic criticism for the $4 billion contribution it made in September.
"The Japanese government has announced that this [$4 billion] is going to be the contribution Japan is making," an official at the Japanese Embassy in Washington said this week. "At this moment, the Japanese government has no intention of increasing this amount."
A spokesman for the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington said he would not answer questions concerning Saudi financial contributions. Kuwaiti officials could not be reached for comment.
In September, after the initial U.S. deployment, Pentagon officials estimated that the gulf operations would cost the United States $1.5 billion a month.
There was no indication how much more money the administration would seek or how many countries would be asked to contribute. U.S. officials have declined to make public revised estimates of the costs of the gulf operations since President Bush announced plans earlier this month to deploy more than 200,000 additional U.S. troops.
But some U.S. officials say that the new deployment is only one of the reasons for seeking new money.
Another factor is the prolonged time period for the gulf operations. The funds raised in September were supposed to help cover costs only through the end of 1990.
Throughout the fall, some administration officials have grumbled about delays in receiving funds promised by several countries.