Galloway denies oil-for-food allegations

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A US Senate committee probing corruption in the UN oil-for-food programme says that the British MP George Galloway was given options on millions of barrels of oil from Saddam Hussein's regime.

A US Senate committee probing corruption in the UN oil-for-food programme says that the British MP George Galloway was given options on millions of barrels of oil from Saddam Hussein's regime.

Citing contracts, letters and interviews with former Iraqi leaders, the committee set out evidence to back the claim that Mr Galloway and the former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua were granted oil allocations under the scheme.

Mr Galloway and M. Pasqua have denied any wrongdoing in the oil-for-food program.

The former Labour MP, who was re-elected to parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow last week running for his own Respect party, described the Senate committee as a "lickspittle Republican committee, acting on the wishes of George Bush".

He said: "Let me repeat. I have never traded in a barrel of oil, or any vouchers for it. I have never seen a barrel of oil apart from the one the Sun newspaper deposited in my front garden.

"And no one has acted on my behalf, trading in oil - Middle Eastern, olive, patchouli or any other - or in vouchers, whatever they are.

"Isn't it strange and contrary to natural justice you might think that I have written and e-mailed repeatedly asking for the opportunity to appear before the committee to provide evidence and rebut their assumptions and they have yet to respond, while apparently making a judgement."

The Republican chairman of the Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigations, Norm Coleman, said: "This report exposes how Saddam Hussein turned the oil-for-food program on its head and used the program to reward his political allies like Pasqua and Galloway."

Mr Coleman said that the committee had uncovered new evidence which suggested a children's leukaemia fund set up by Mr Galloway was used to conceal the transfer of 3 million barrels of oil.

The Mariam Appeal was the fund set up by the former Glasgow Kelvin MP help four-year-old girl Mariam Hamza.

The oil-for-food program was designed to let Saddam's government sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods to help the Iraqi people cope with UN sanctions imposed in 1991 following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

But Saddam manipulated the multi-billion dollar program to earn illegal revenues and peddle influence, by awarding former government officials, activists, UN officials and journalists vouchers for Iraqi oil that could then be resold at a profit.

The former Iraqi vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan gave testimony to the committee which stated Mr Galloway was allocated the oil "because of his opinions about Iraq".

The committee said Pasqua had received allocations worth 11 million barrels from 1999 to 2000, and Mr Galloway received allocations worth 20 million barrels from 2000 to 2003.

Mr Coleman's subcommittee said the evidence it found against Mr Galloway was different from documents reported in the Daily Telegraph in April 2003 alleging that he took money from Saddam's regime.

Mr Galloway filed a libel suit over the story and won £150,000 from the Daily Telegraph last year. Galloway also accepted undisclosed damages and a public apology from the Christian Science Monitor over an article it published alleging he took money from Saddam's regime. That report was based on documents that later proved to be forgeries.

Mr Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party after urging British soldiers not to fight in Iraq.

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