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Cheney discussed Enron with Indian leader

Vice President Dick Cheney
Vice President Dick Cheney  

By John King
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney asked Indian opposition leader Sonia Gandhi last June about a multimillion-dollar debt owed to Enron from a major energy project in India, administration officials confirmed Friday.

The officials told CNN the subject came up for only a moment at a meeting at the White House, and that no one at Enron asked Cheney to raise the issue. Cheney met with Gandhi to discuss general diplomatic issues affecting the U.S. and India.

These two officials also noted that the taxpayer-financed Overseas Private Investment Corporation had a stake in the issue; OPIC could face payouts of perhaps $300 million, because it agreed to underwrite political risk insurance as part of the Enron deal.

A Cheney aide said the vice president has had three meetings with Indian officials since the Bush administration took office. The $64 million Enron debt has come up just once, in the June 27th meeting with the opposition leader.

The aide told CNN that Enron CEO Kenneth Lay "never asked him to do it, no one at Enron asked him to talk about it. It was in the briefing papers Cheney received in advance of the meeting, and he asked about the status of the Enron project."

The officials noted the meeting was in June; it was several months later that Enron's financial problems began to surface.

Administration officials say there was nothing improper about raising the Enron debt issue. But reports of Cheney's actions come at a time some Democrats in Congress are suggesting Enron benefited from its deep ties with senior Bush administration officials.

Those Democrats are pressing for information on Enron-administration contacts and any administration actions that might have benefited Enron.




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