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Congress, all but sitting on the sidelines since approving the war against Iraq, returned today to deal with the cost of Operation Desert Storm, as well as other battle-related legislation. The Senate and House are both scheduled to resume work after a 10-day recess and, shortly after their return, the administration will tender a $56 billion bill to pay for the war.

Although a staggering sum, about $41 billion of the $56 billion supplemental appropriations, will be shouldered by other members of the allied coalition that have contributed not only men and materiel, but hard cash for the war effort.

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The size of the appropriation has been the subject of great speculation on Capitol Hill, with the administration offering Congress little information on what is needed to fight the war.

A senior administration official said late last week the total figure is $56 billion and that the allies will contribute $41 billion of that total, but he gave no additional details.

It was also unclear whether the White House would send Congress a second appropriations bill to help alliance countries that have suffered, either economically like Turkey, or physically like Israel.

White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said recently, ``Basically there would be one [supplemental] that would relate just to the incremental costs associated with Operation Desert Storm. And then, if there were costs in other areas, that would be a separate issue to be resolved later with another supplemental or something.

``We hope to have a full accounting of the 1991 costs and requests ... hopefully ... before that supplemental goes up [to Capitol Hill].''

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