Rice Scheduled To Answer Questions About Iraqi Corruption

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to appear before the House Oversight and Goverment Reform Committee Thursday to answer questions about corruption within the Iraqi government, the possibility of political reconciliation in that war-ravaged country and the department's controversial security contract with Blackwater USA, according to a release from the committee.

Oversight Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) has been pressing Rice and other agency officials for months to testify about corruption and the department's contract with Blackwater. According to the release, committee members will also be asking about allegations of misconduct in the construction of the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad.

A committee spokeswoman said Rice had agreed to appear, but the State Department's Office of Press Relations did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation.

Her testimony would come one week after the House approved a symbolic measure - with the help of most Republicans - to reprimand the department for failing to cooperate with the investigation of the alleged widespread corruption within the Iraqi government.

That resolution cited instances in which agency officials redacted documents the committee requested, counseled its staff to refrain from answering questions about corruption and re-classified testimony before the committee that depicted the government in a negative light.

Her appearance before the oversight panel would mark yet another public concession this week as critics continue to bombard the State Department on multiple fronts. Rice is also expected to implement new oversight measures to monitor private security firms in response to the uproar over Blackwater, according to the Associated Press.