The Clinton administration is seeking approval from Congress for covert operations to weaken and potentially oust Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

According to the newspaper, the broad new authority "would go far beyond past CIA efforts" to spawn internal resistance and to mount covert operations inside Iraq.The administration has already sent to Congress a classified notice in asking Congress to sign off on the use of secret contingency funds within the defense and intelligence budget, the paper said.

It quotes unnamed government officials familiar with the consultations between Congress and administration officials at the State Department and the Pentagon as saying that the scale of the initiative could involve "the potential use of U.S. military personnel" and more than a year of organizing before fully undertaken.