As the US Congressional elections draw nearer yet another embarrassment has emerged for the Republicans as it has emerged an Arizona representative knew about disgraced former Florida politician Mark Foley’s controversial email exchanges back in 2000.

It has now been revealed that Republican of Arizona, Jim Kolbe, previously confronted Mr Foley over his relationship with a page after the intern showed him internet messages.

Mr Kolbe’s press secretary Korenna Cline told the Washingston Post that there had been a confrontation between the pair over “sexually explicit” messages, claiming they made the work experience person feel uncomfortable.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been under pressure to explain why no-one exposed Mr Foley earlier and has faced calls to resign amid allegations of a cover up.

Thomas Reynolds of New York has also faced criticism after reports that the page’s sponsor complained to him earlier this year. Mr Reynolds insists he raised this issue with Mr Hastert.

Other Republican lawmakers have made TV appearances to back the fledgling party’s stance.

One intern involved in the scandal described the content of the messages as “sexually explicit” to the Los Angeles Times, he claims the two had sex in late 2000 when he was 21.

Exchanges included questions about sexual orientation and the size of the intern’s erection. He said the Congressman was known as “Florida Fag Foley”.

Mr Foley, a six-term state representative and chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children resigned earlier this month and is now facing an investigation after ABC News reported he sent messages to current and former underage pages with references to sexual acts and genitalia.

Mr Foley apparently sent some ‘overly-friendly’ e-mails in August 2005 to a former page who was 16 years old at the time. More recently, Foley has been accused of sending sexually explicit instant messages to House pages.

Republican leaders are under fire to give an explanation for how much they knew about Foley’s behaviour and when they were first aware of the e-mails.

Gay rights groups expressed outrage this week over the ‘gay spin’ they say the Republican leadership and Christian Right groups have put on the scandal, emphasising that the ex-congressman’s actions had nothing to do with sexual orientation after Mr Foley also revealed he is gay.

The scandal is seen as a threat to Republican control of Congress amid elections on November 7 2006.