The Bush administration will cooperate with investigations by the new Democratic Congress on issues such as Iraq and the treatment of detainees, but hopes the hearings do not turn into “witch hunts,” a top White House official said on Thursday.

Democrats who took control of both chambers of Congress at the beginning of the month have promised aggressive oversight of the administration and hearings could focus on the handling of contracts in Iraq, the detention of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other subjects.

“Of course, we will cooperate with any investigations that the Congress wants to pursue. We believe in vigorous and legitimate oversight by the Congress,” White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten said in an interview on National Public Radio.

But he added, “I don’t think political witch hunts are going to be particularly productive or well received here in Washington.”

The White House this month hired prominent Washington lawyer Fred Fielding as White House counsel. Fielding, a veteran of the Nixon and Reagan administrations, succeeded Harriet Miers, a longtime Bush friend from Texas.

Many political analysts saw the hiring of Fielding as a move to help gear up for expected investigations by the Democratic Congress.

Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited

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