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Ambassador challenges arms fraud claim

WASHINGTON, July 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. ambassador to Albania says he's being unfairly targeted by a congressional investigation into arms procurement fraud.

U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has accused Ambassador John Withers II of approving a plan to cover up an alleged fraudulent deal to supply U.S. troops in Afghanistan with antiquated Chinese munitions, The Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

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Withers says that far from covering up anything, he and his U.S. Embassy staff have worked with criminal prosecutors in tracking down how 22-year-old arms dealer Efraim Diveroli allegedly conspired to substitute cheap replacements stored in Albania for the real supplies specified in a $298 million Pentagon contract.

Waxman said his sources told him Withers held a meeting with an Albanian official allegedly to work out a coverup, but Withers has strenuously denied it and has lined up several witnesses to back his claim, the newspaper reported. It said the ambassador wrote Waxman Saturday requesting a meeting "to refute the unfounded aspersions that have been cast upon the reputations of an outstanding and dedicated cadre of public officials."

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