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Senators: Where is Iraq's oil money going?

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  • Senators question why Iraq isn't tapping oil billions to improve quality of life
  • Iraqi officials haven't responded to claims they aren't doing "nearly enough"
  • Pentagon official said in 2003 that Iraq could easily pay for its rebuilding
  • Deadly car bomb erupts near army patrol in Mosul
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Two senators are asking congressional investigators to look at Iraq's oil revenues and see if the war-ravaged nation can pay for its own reconstruction, an effort that has been bankrolled to this point mostly by U.S. taxpayers.

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A U.S. soldier stands guard in front of the Iraqi Northern Oil Refinery near Baiji in November.

Carl Levin, D-Michigan, and John Warner, R-Virginia, said in their Friday letter to the Government Accountability Office that Iraq has "tremendous resources" in banks worldwide but is doing little to improve security and reconstruction efforts.

Iraqi officials did not immediately respond to the senators' allegations.

"We believe that it has been overwhelmingly U.S. taxpayer money that has funded Iraq reconstruction over the last five years, despite Iraq earning billions of dollars in oil revenue over that time period that have ended up in non-Iraqi banks," wrote the senators, who are their party's top members on the Armed Services Committee.

The senators cited testimony of then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz who told a House subcommittee in March 2003 that the U.S. would not foot the entire bill for rebuilding Iraq. Wolfowitz predicted then that Iraq's oil revenues could reach between $50 billion and $100 billion in the next two or three years.

"We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon," Wolfowitz said in 2003. Video Watch why the senators want to take a closer look »

Senators want answers

The senators want investigators to find out:
• Iraqi oil revenues for 2003-2007
• What the U.S. and Iraq spent in that time on security, reconstruction, governance and economic development
• Iraq's projected oil revenue for 2008
• How much money the Iraqi government has earned from oil but not spent
• How much the Iraqi government has deposited in banks, and in which countries
• Why Iraq hasn't spent more on services for its people

Using numbers from the U.S. State Department and Iraqi Oil Ministry, the senators said Iraq hopes to produce 2.2 million barrels of oil a day this year. Weekly averages suggest that the number has climbed as high as 2.51 million barrels a day.

That kind of oil production could earn Iraq a projected $56.4 billion this year, an estimate the senators say is low given the rising cost of crude.

"In essence, we believe that Iraq will accrue at least $100.0 billion in oil revenues in 2007 and 2008," the letter said.

It added, "Our conversations with both Iraqis and Americans during our frequent visits to Iraq, as well as official government and unofficial media reports, have convinced us that the Iraqi government is not doing nearly enough to provide essential services and improve the quality of life of its citizens."

Iraq's ability to spend its $10.1 billion capital projects budget in 2007 was one of the 18 benchmarks used to assess U.S. progress in stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq, according to the GAO.

The United States has spent more than $47 billion on Iraqi reconstruction efforts since 2003, according to the 2008 quarterly audit by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

In other developments:

• A car bomb exploded Sunday near an army patrol in the northern city of Mosul, missing its apparent target -- soldiers -- and instead killing two civilians, police said. Five people were wounded when the blast erupted from a parked car.

• Iraqi President Jalal Talabani returned to Iraq Saturday after a two-day trip to Turkey, where he called for a high-level Iraqi-Turkish political committee to "promote and strength the relations between the two countries," his office said Sunday.

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• A mass grave holding an estimated 100 bodies was found Saturday in an orchard near Khalis in Iraq's Diyala province, officials said. It appears the bodies had been at the site "for a long time," military spokesman Maj. Brad Leighton said in a statement.

• Thousands of people in the southern city of Basra marched on police headquarters Saturday demanding better security for their crime-ridden city. Kidnappings, murders and thefts have risen in Iraq's second largest city since British troops handed over responsibility for the province to Iraqi authorities. Shiite groups have been fighting for control of the oil-rich area. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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