Bush under attack for lack of PA operation in Baghdad

BAGHDAD: The Bush administration is coming under fire from the press and government officials for virtually abandoning its public affairs operation in Baghdad.

Moroccan ambassador Margaret Tutwiler was sent to oversee the operation in April after major hostilities ended.

But according to administration sources, she returned to Morocco within a month.

Department of Justice press secretary Mark Corallo arrived in May to handle day-to-day press duties, but stayed just a week after being told by Tut-wiler there was no role for him.

Now back in Washington, Corallo confirmed the length of his stay in Iraq, but declined further comment.

An administration source close to the situation said Corallo was sent home because ‘the operation had no real hard [phone] lines and not enough computers’.

White House comms aide Dan Senor is now overseeing the operation in Iraq.

Washington Post staff writer Peter Slevin said there was little access to senior members: ‘Many reporters were frustrated that there was no daily access to information, but there were people in the Government operation who were equally frustrated. They were given satellite phones that didn’t work inside the palace where they were stationed.’

State Department spokes-man Rob Tappan said Senor is rectifying the situation.

‘I understand he meets with reporters regularly for one-on-one background briefings, and I think there’s a conscious decision to provide press briefings on an as-needed basis,’ he said.

l President Bush has hired White House media relations director Nicolle Devenish to lead his 2004 election campaign PR team. Devenish will take on the role of director of comms – a position held in 2000 by Karen Hughes.

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