WASHINGTON -- A House subcommittee chairman accused the Bush administration yesterday of attempting to cover up its sympathetic policy toward Iraq before the invasion of Kuwait.
Representative Sam Gejdenson, D-Conn., leveled the charge after a report that a Commerce Department official was being dismissed for telling Congress that the administration approved exports of technology with military applications to Iraq over his objections.
The report in Tuesday's editions of the New York Times quoted an official as saying that the office of White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu ordered that the Commerce official, Dennis E. Kloske, undersecretary for export administration, be removed from the payroll by June 1.
"This administration is involved in the cover-up of fundamental facts in their activities regarding the situation in Iraq prior to the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi government," said Mr. Gejdenson, chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on international economic policy and trade.
Commerce spokesman Gary Foster said Mr. Kloske notified the department last month that he intended to resign. "I can honestly say there was no call from the White House asking for Dennis' resignation or that he be fired," Mr. Foster said.
To buttress its position, the Commerce Department released a handwritten letter, dated March 8, to Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher Sr. in which Mr. Kloske said he had accepted a job offer from a New York investment bank.
A senior Commerce Department official said that both the White House and the department were well into their search for a replacement for Mr. Kloske before his testimony Monday. The official denied that Mr. Kloske's departure was being hastened in the wake of his appearance.
Mr. Kloske was overseas and could not be reached for comment.