Iraqi Official Defends Spending

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Baghdad (AP) An Iraqi lawmaker close to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is defending the government's record on spending for reconstruction, saying critics are overlooking Baghdad's progress the past three years.

The U.S. general accounting office says Iraq could end the year with as much as a 79 billion dollar cumulative budget surplus thanks to rising oil revenues.

The Shiite lawmaker calls the GAO report “unrealistic” and based on incomplete information. His comments reflect those of some U.S. officials in Baghdad, who acknowledge the Iraqis haven't spent funds fast enough in the past, but say the situation is improving.

While the Iraqi government is working to fund projects now, many citizens who lack adequate electricity, clean water and jobs, find the idea of a surplus that big unfathomable.