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British Lawmaker Denies Profiting From Oil-for Food Program


British lawmaker George Galloway has angrily denied claims made in a U.S. Senate report that he received Iraqi oil allocations, under the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program. As Brian Wagner reports, Mr. Galloway testified Tuesday before Senators, who claim Iraq offered the deals to help win support for ending sanctions imposed against it.

British lawmaker George Galloway came to Washington to challenge allegations that he was involved in oil deals that violated United Nations sanctions against Iraq, following Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Senate committee chairman, Republican Norm Coleman (of Minnesota) says there is evidence that Iraq gave lucrative oil deals to Mr. Galloway and other European politicians, like former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua, because they opposed U.N. sanctions.

“The reports released over the past week contain 99 pages of text and 452 footnotes that detail compelling evidence describing how Saddam abused the Oil for Food Program to garner political influence around the globe,” says Norm Coleman.

The Senate committee investigated how Saddam Hussein made billions from oil sales, despite the sanctions and the U.N. program intended to tightly control oil revenues and devote them to food and medicine for the Iraqi people.

The evidence of illegal deals includes interviews with former regime officials and Iraqi documents. Some name Mr. Galloway and a children's cancer charity that he operated.

But the British lawmaker insists the information is false. Mr. Galloway says, “What counts is not the names on the paper, what counts is where's the money, Senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of money? The answer to that is nobody. And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them here today.”

And Mr. Galloway, along with a Democratic Party minority report on sanctions busting, says the United States tolerated illegal dealings with Iraq.

“Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee, that the biggest sanction busters were not me or Russian politicians or French politicians. The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own government,” says Mr. Galloway.

U.S. investigators say the Saddam regime gave out oil allocations to help win support at the U.N. Security Council for ending the sanctions, and to earn 228 million dollars in kickbacks on the deals.

Republican Senator Robert Bennett of Utah says, “Just one last observation. They may have done it for political influence and for friendship to reward those that were on their side, but they always made sure they got their kickback or friendship would disappear.

Others accused of profiting in the illegal deals are former Russian presidential chief of staff Alexander Voloshin and ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Both, along with the former French minister Charles Pasqua, have denied any wrongdoing.

To some, the Oil for Food Program has become a symbol not only of Saddam's greed and exploitation of his own people, but also of the ineffectiveness of the United Nations. The Bush administration has called for drastic reforms at the UN.

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