NATIONAL

GAO threatens to sue White House

NEW YORK, JAN. 31. The General Accounting Office (GAO) has made it known that it is `proceeding' with plans to sue the White House for documents of meetings on the Energy Task Force chaired by the U.S. Vice- President, Richard Cheney. But it has also said that the law suits will not be filed in District Courts for at least another two to three weeks. It would like to see if something could be worked out with the White House.

``We are not going to back down,'' said the head of the GAO, Mr. David Walker. The GAO is the investigative arm of the Congress which is keen to know who it was that the Energy Task Force consulted while drawing up the policy.

The Democrats on Capitol Hill have the feeling that a majority of those consulted were from the energy industry.

But senior administration officials and the Vice- President's Office have been equally adamant and tough that materials were not going to be turned over.

The White House has made the point that release of the material will jeopardise the ability of the President and the Vice-President to get candid advice and views.

The show-down between the GAO and the White House intensified in the aftermath of the Enron collapse which, in turn, raised some very awkward and tough questions as far as linkages with the Bush administration.

Although Enron has contributed handsomely to the Democrats, it is seen as the main benefactor of the Grand Old Party and the President, George W. Bush. But in the aftermath of the biggest bankruptcy, questions are also being raised as to when and what administration officials knew about the goings-on in the Houston-based company.

It has now been disclosed that former top Enron executives have had meetings with Mr. Cheney as the Task Force was in the process of coming up with policy guidelines.

And in the context of India, the Vice-President did raise the subject of the Enron Project in Maharashtra with senior Indian leaders, including the leader of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi.

The White House argues that this is not anything out of the ordinary, rather one of promoting American interests and something which had been done even in the predecessor Democratic administration.

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