The Bush administration is seeking dismissal of a lawsuit filed by 45 House Democrats, including Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, that contends the president must get congressional approval before launching any U.S. attack on Iraqi forces.

The Justice Department said Monday night the courts should not decide the case because there is no imminent threat of hostilities and, in any case, the issue is political and cannot be decided on legal principles.The "ultimate check" on presidential power to deploy military force is congressional control of the federal purse strings and not the courts, the department said in legal papers filed with U.S. District Judge Harold Greene.

Those filing suit must show that they have suffered some injury as a result of illegal conduct, the department said.

The congressmen "have not alleged that such an attack is imminent, or even probable, but merely that there is a `realistic threat' of one," the department said. "The fact that a threat may be `realistic,' however, does not mean that it is likely to be carried out."

The suit seeks a preliminary injunction restraining President Bush from launching an offensive against Iraqi troops without congressional approval.

Granting such relief "would involve the court in the kind of diplomatic and military judgments" that are the province of Congress and the executive branch, the Justice Department said.

"The courts have traditionally remained aloof from such issues," it added. It urged the judge to "refrain from intervening in this ongoing political process" and to dismiss the case.

The papers filed by Assistant Attorney General Stuart Gerson called it premature to bring such a lawsuit because it is based on the premise of hypothetical future events.