British parliamentarian George Galloway has rejected charges he profited from the U.N. oil-for-food program in testimony before a U.S. Senate panel.
|British legislator George Galloway|
Mr. Galloway angrily denied allegations by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that he accepted oil deals from ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in return for support for ending sanctions against Iraq.
He took the opportunity to criticize the panel's chairman, Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, when he issued his denials.
"I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader,” said Mr. Galloway. “And neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one, and neither has anybody on my behalf. Now I know that standards have slipped over the past few years in Washington, but for a lawyer, you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice."
The committee has released documents purportedly showing Mr. Galloway received 20 million barrels in oil allocations under the program.
The documents say Mr. Galloway, along with French and Russian politicians who also received oil allocations, then paid kickbacks to Saddam as part of the deal.
"In one of Mr. Galloway's transactions, surcharges of more than $300,000 were paid to the Hussein regime,” said Chairman Coleman. “Senior Hussein officials informed the subcommittee the allocation holders, in this case, Galloway, were ultimately responsible for the surcharge payment and therefore would have known of the illegal, under-the-table payment."
Mr. Galloway rejected that charge, and said there is no evidence that he sold any Iraqi oil options.
He said the committee probe is being conducted to divert attention away from problems with the U.S. handling of post-war Iraq, including the failure to account for billions of dollars in spending in that country.
"Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens," replied Mr. Galloway.
The maverick British lawmaker defended his opposition to the U.N. sanctions against Iraq, and to the U.S.-led war.
Mr. Galloway appeared before the committee voluntarily, testifying under oath and without immunity from U.S. prosecution.
The Senate hearing examined how Saddam made billions in illegal oil sales despite the sanctions imposed in 1991 after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
The now defunct oil-for-food program was designed to let the Iraqi regime sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods to help the Iraqi people cope with the sanctions.