"It is important to understand that this is not any sort of admission. As a responsible government contractor it is the right thing to do," said Halliburton subsidiary KBR president and chief executive Randy Harl.

  

Halliburton had already agreed with the Pentagon's auditor, the Defence Contract Audit Agency, to suspend KBR subcontractor billings of $34.5 million.

  

Total suspended subcontractor billings amount to $174.5 million.

  

Halliburton also agreed with the Pentagon auditors to defer invoicing until the method of charging for the meals had been agreed.

 

Discrepancy

  

The discrepancy at the heart of the problem was caused by the difference between the number of meals ordered by the Pentagon and the number actually served to soldiers, the company said in a statement.

  

"Most cooks know how many people are coming to dinner when they are preparing food," Harl said. "It is just not that simple in Iraq."

  

Halliburton is in the midst of a television publicity campaign to improve its image after a series of scandals. The company blames much of its problem on politics: Cheney was chief executive from 1995 to 2000.

  

"It is just not that simple in Iraq"

Randy Harl,
chief executive, KBR

"Despite taking these actions, the company said it expects the basic issues of breakfast, lunch and dinner to continue to be the topic of political discussions," the Halliburton statement said.

  

The Pentagon auditors also are reviewing whether KBR may have overcharged the government at least $61 million for fuel imports from Kuwait into Iraq under a separate contract with the US Army.

  

KBR has again denied any wrongdoing.

  

KBR runs dining facilities for soldiers and civilians under a Defence Department contract it won in 2001 to provide food, shelter and other support to the US military throughout the world.

  

The company has been awarded $3.8 billion in work under the contract.