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White House moves on funding for possible Iraq action: congressional aides

By Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House is putting together a proposal to shift some money that had been designated for use in Afghanistan for possible military operations in Iraq, congressional aides said on Monday.

As they formulate a response to the Iraq crisis, White House officials have told lawmakers they will submit this week or next a request to Congress for "Overseas Contingency Operations" funding, carving out some money for Iraq that had previously been anticipated for use in Afghanistan.

The request would include some details on plans to spend the money, the aides told Reuters.

President Barack Obama has said he is open to possible U.S. action in Iraq to help the Baghdad government counter an onslaught by Islamist militants. He is due to be briefed on Monday night on options prepared by his national security team.

The current Overseas Contingency funds request included in an annual defense appropriations bill is for $79.4 billion. But that bill has been making its way through Congress without detail on how the money would be spent.

A request to Congress for significant funding for operations in Iraq would be an indication of how serious the administration is about helping Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki repel the militants' advance that threatens to splinter the country.

Aides said the administration was continuing consultations with lawmakers over its Iraq plans, including holding a classified briefing for members of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

Congressional aides said the administration was also putting together a formal notification to Congress triggered by the partial evacuation of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad that would allow increased security at the facility.

The formal notification, as required by the War Powers Act, could involve more than plans announced on Sunday by the U.S. State Department to boost security and move some workers out of the city, aides said.

Obama administration officials did not respond to requests for comment.

(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball and Mark Felsenthal; Editing by David Storey and James Dalgleish)

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