Other items: Oil panel criticizes Iraq, coalition over spending; Iraq's interim government asks some of Saddam's soldiers to return to duty; and insurgents raid police station.

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WASHINGTON — The Army said yesterday it is spending $4.1 billion to armor all military wheeled vehicles in Iraq by June, with most of the money expected to be used on trucks.

Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Speakes, U.S. Central Command deputy commanding general for operations, would not provide specific figures for cargo trucks, Humvees or other individual categories or specify how much of the $4.1 billion is new money shifted to meet the demand for more armor. About half the money will be spent to build “up-armored” vehicles, while the rest will go toward armor kits to retrofit existing vehicles.

The Army and the Pentagon have come under sharp attack for the lack of armor on many of the Humvees, trucks and other vehicles U.S. troops use in Iraq. Insurgents using roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades have regularly targeted military vehicles, killing numerous U.S. troops.

Criticism intensified last week after a U.S. soldier complained publicly to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Kuwait that troops had to scrounge in landfills for scrap metal to protect their vehicles.

Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sorensen, deputy for acquisition and system management, said time — not money — was the issue. He said the Army Proving Ground at Aberdeen, Md., was testing armor samples from various defense firms around the clock against rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons used by insurgents.

“This is not Wal-Mart,” Sorensen said. “This is a very detailed process in terms of trying to get this capability. So this has not been something where (neither) the Army nor the contractors have taken a laid-back attitude. They have been very forthright … with trying to accelerate the delivery capability.”

Oil panel criticizes Iraq, coalition over spending

UNITED NATIONS — The international board monitoring Iraq’s oil revenue criticized the former U.S. administrators of Iraq and the current government for mismanagement, citing smuggling, inadequate spending records and contracts worth at least $812 million where there was no competitive bidding.

The International Advisory and Monitoring Board said it had agreed to terms proposed by the U.S. government for an audit covering contracts awarded to Halliburton and other firms without competitive bidding. It will be conducted by an independent auditor and is expected to be completed by April, the board said.

The board was authorized by the U.N. Security Council in May 2003 to ensure the “transparent” operation of the Development Fund for Iraq, which was set up at the Central Bank in Baghdad to receive Iraq’s oil revenue and frozen assets from Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime for use in rebuilding the country.

The fund was controlled by the United States and Britain, Iraq’s occupying powers, until the June 28 transfer of sovereignty to the new interim government. A council resolution in early June transferred control of the fund to the interim government and continued the board’s mandate until after elections to be held by Dec. 31, 2005.

A report Tuesday covering the board’s oversight until the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority was replaced on June 28 said external auditors concluded that all known oil proceeds, frozen assets and financial transfers from the U.N. oil-for-food program were “properly and transparently accounted for” in the fund.

At the same time, however, the board said it believes “controls were insufficient to provide reasonable assurance for the completeness of export sales of petroleum and petroleum products” and to determine whether all disbursements from the Development Fund “were made for the purposes intended.”

Iraq is still plagued with gaps in tracking its oil production because it hasn’t installed metering equipment in accordance with standard oil industry practices, as the board recommended in February, the report said.

It also cited weaknesses in the coalition’s handling of resources, singling out inadequate record keeping and accounting systems “and the uneven application of agreed-upon contracting procedures.” It also noted weak controls over spending in various government ministries including insufficient payroll records and inadequate monitoring of contracts by the coalition.

Some Saddam soldiers asked to return to duty

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq’s interim government, preparing for an election next month while fighting a bloody insurgency, asked some of Saddam’s Hussein’s disbanded army to come back to work yesterday.

The Defense Ministry proclamation invited former soldiers in the old Transport Corps to serve in the new U.S.-backed army, 18 months after the U.S. occupation authority formally demobilized Saddam’s 375,000-strong military.

“Those interested must apply at the Muthanna base in Baghdad,” read the proclamation, referring to a main recruitment center, which has been coming under attack from insurgents regularly.

Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and other Iraqi leaders have criticized the decision to disband the army for weakening their ability to fend off the insurgency and for creating a large pool of unemployed and disgruntled soldiers who may have joined the guerrillas.

Insurgents grab arms in police station raid

SAMARRA, Iraq — Gunmen overran a police station in the northern Iraqi city of Samarra yesterday and seized weapons and ammunition, witnesses said.

Ten weeks after U.S. forces mounted a major operation to wrest the city from Sunni insurgents, about 10 gunmen surrounded the central Imam Hadi station, held up the officers and took their rifles, said a policeman who was among those robbed.

The gunmen left without firing a shot, he said.

Samarra remains a center for anti-American rebels and clashes have been frequent in recent weeks.

Civilians have taken the brunt of the violence. Four people, including two children, have been killed in the past two days after gunfights between insurgents and U.S. patrols.

Scores of U.S.-backed Iraqi National Guards and contractors working with American forces have been killed in and around Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, as well as Turkish drivers carrying shipments of gasoline and kerosene into Iraq.