WASHINGTON -- The White House has ordered the dismissal of an undersecretary of commerce for telling Congress Monday that the administration ignored warnings to limit the export of U.S. technology to Iraq before the invasion of Kuwait, administration officials said yesterday.
One official said that Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher Sr. was told by the office of John H. Sununu, the White House chief of staff, that Dennis E. Kloske, undersecretary for export administration and one of the top half-dozen officials in the department, should be removed from the payroll by June 1.
The White House and the Commerce Department denied that Mr. Kloske's resignation had been requested. They added, however, that Mr. Kloske has been planning to leave for some time but has not submitted a letter of resignation.
Mr. Kloske, reached yesterday in Brussels, Belgium, where he addressed a conference, said: "I have no comment. Everything I have to say about the subject was said yesterday."
Mr. Kloske told a House subcommittee that the administration, the State Department in particular, had disregarded his recommendations last spring to reduce the flow of advanced U.S. technology to Iraq because the administration wanted to encourage better relations with Baghdad.
The reported disciplinary action reflects the extreme sensitivity of the administration to criticism that it mishandled relations with Iraq and continued to provide advanced equipment to Baghdad until just a few weeks before President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2.
Democrats have charged that the administration sought to appeaseIraq until shortly before Kuwait was invaded and that the United States sent contradictory diplomatic as well as trade and economic signals to Mr. Hussein.
Speaking Monday to the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade, Mr. Kloske said that because of his rising concern about developments in Iraq, he had tried to outflank the administration policy by delaying sales, which required review by the Commerce Department unit that he heads.
"I decided to employ the only option available to a bureaucrat," he told the lawmakers. "I tried to tie up all sales in red tape."
In his congressional testimony, he presented a picture of interagency rivalry and dissension.
The subcommittee hearing was called after recent disclosures that $1.5 billion worth of sensitive "dual use" products -- computers, chemicals and telecommunications equipment that have both military and civilian applications -- was approved for export to Iraq from 1985 to 1990.