WASHINGTON – The State Department is releasing $4 million for television and radio broadcasts by the Iraqi opposition, a U.S. senator said Wednesday.
Sen. Sam Brownback, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage notified him Wednesday morning that an initial $4 million is being released.
Brownback, R-Kan., and several other senators had urged the administration to clear red tape that was holding up State Department grant money.
"The Iraqi opposition remains a vital tool for saving American lives in the process of toppling Saddam's regime," the senators wrote in a letter sent Monday to President Bush.
"The fact that we are at war with Saddam's regime, and still not fully funding the Iraqi opposition in their struggle to achieve the same goal, is wrong," the senators wrote. Besides Brownback, the letter was signed by Republican Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Jon Kyl and John McCain of Arizona and Norm Coleman of Minnesota.
Specifically, they mentioned Liberty TV, run by the Iraqi National Congress opposition group. The group said the satellite television channel went off the air in May 2002 because of lack of State Department funding.
At the time, the State Department said grant negotiations had been complicated by problems with INC's financial management. The State Department did not immediately respond to Brownback's announcement on Wednesday.
Called Television Hurriah in Arabic, Liberty TV was broadcasting 24 hours a day in Arabic to Iraq, the Middle East, Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. It presented a mixture of news, current affairs, talk shows, documentaries and entertainment.
Brownback said he is not endorsing any opposition group to rule Iraq following the war.
"This is not an effort to pick leadership for post-Saddam Hussein, but simply to engage the opposition to Saddam," Brownback said.