Galloway challenges US senators to charge him with perjury

The US Senate committee investigating the Respect MP's alleged involvement in the saga claims to have discovered £85,000 (150,000 dollars) in Iraqi oil money in his estranged wife's bank account.

And its chairman, Republican Senator Norm Coleman, says this means Mr Galloway lied under oath when giving evidence to the Senate Permanent Sub-committee on Investigations on May 17 this year, when he offered a passionate defence against similar claims

But Mr Galloway repeated denials that he had ever received any oil cash, and told Mr Coleman to "put up or shut up" by either bringing a prosecution or dropping the allegations.

The Bethnal Green and Bow MP accused Mr Coleman of orchestrating a "sneak revenge attack" motivated by a desire to avenge his "humiliation" at the hearing in May.

"I am demanding prosecution, I am begging for prosecution," Mr Galloway told Sky News.

"I am saying if I have lied under oath in front of the Senate, that's a criminal offence.

"Charge me and I will head for the airport right now and face them down in court as I faced them down in the Senate room.

"Because I publicly humiliated this lick-spittle senator Norman Coleman - one of (President George) Bush's right-hand men - in the US Senate in May, this sneak revenge attack has been launched over the last 24 hours."

The committee's new report accuses Mr Galloway of personally soliciting and being granted eight oil allocations totalling 23 million barrels from the Hussein government between 1999 and 2003.

It claims that his estranged wife, Dr Amineh Abu-Zayyad, received approximately £85,000 (150,000 dollars) in connection with one allocation of oil.

And it alleges that at least £252,000 (446,000 dollars) was funnelled to Mr Galloway's Mariam Appeal through several allocations.

Senator Coleman said: "I directed the sub-committee to continue its investigation into Mr Galloway because his testimony at the May 17, 2005 hearing so clearly conflicted with the evidence."

"The additional evidence ... clearly demonstrates that the testimony Mr Galloway provided to the sub-committee was false and misleading."

In its initial report the committee accused the former Labour MP of receiving 20 million barrels of oil from Saddam Hussein's regime.

Dr Abu-Zayyad is quoted in the report specifically denying she received any money.

Asked whether she or her husband had benefited from Iraq oil sales, she replied to the committee in writing yesterday: "I have never solicited or received from Iraq or anyone else any proceeds of any oil deals, either for myself or for my former husband."

The committee attributes its findings to personal interviews with high-level members of the Hussein regime, anonymous oil traders with personal knowledge of Mr Galloway's involvement and extensive bank records.

It claims that Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat, a good friend of Mr Galloway, channelled the money from the United Nations oil-for-food programme to the MP's former wife and to the Mariam Appeal.

It also cites testimony from former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz who allegedly told investigators that Mr Galloway had requested oil allocations in the name of Mr Zureikat.

Former Iraqi vice president, Taha Yasin Ramadan, is quoted as saying that Mr Galloway had been granted oil allocations "because of his opinions about Iraq".

Mr Ramadan allegedly refers to the MP as "a friend of Iraq" who "needed to be compensated for his support."

The report also quotes former Iraqi oil minister Amer Rashid as confirming that Mr Galloway was granted oil allocations.

The committee then printed alleged documents which it claims prove the money transfers were made.

A Senate aide said the information had been turned over to the US Department of Justice, which potentially had the power to press charges of perjury.

The information will also be given to the British authorities.

Mr Galloway today said he had never inquired into the sources of funding for his former wife's scientific work and did not speak on her behalf.

Of Aziz and Ramadan's evidence, he said: "The evidence is statements made by the people on trial for genocide and living now in the dungeons of the American occupation in Iraq.

"Knowing what we do about what happens to people in American dungeons in Iraq, you don't have to be a genius to work out why, after May, they would get somebody to say what they want them to say.

"Nobody has ever given me one thin dime from an oil deal or any other deal.

The Respect MP recently won £150,000 in libel damages after suing the Telegraph over documents published in 2003, in which he was said to have asked for an increased allocation from the oil-for-food programme.

The newspaper is currently appealing that ruling.

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