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British Lawmaker Denies Being on Saddam's Payroll - 2003-04-22


A British member of Parliament is threatening to sue a newspaper that reported he was paid $600,000 a year by the government of deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

The Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday that it had found a document in Baghdad suggesting British member of Parliament George Galloway had been in the pay of Iraq.

According to the newspaper, the document was discovered by one of its reporters in the bomb-damaged Baghdad offices of the Iraqi foreign minister.

The reporter, David Blair, told British radio the document detailed a meeting between Mr. Galloway and an Iraqi intelligence agent on December 26, 1999.

Mr. Blair says the document indicated Mr. Galloway needed money and that an arrangement was devised for him to receive $600,000 a year from Iraqi's oil-for-food program.

The reporter says he and his translator found the document in a random search, and he rejects allegations from Mr. Galloway that it is a forgery.

"We just went and purely by chance stumbled across this room which had these files in it," said Mr. Blair. "And again, purely by chance, we came across these files which carried the label "Britain." And it was two days before we had actually gone through the contents and found this document."

On the same program, Mr. Galloway denied every aspect of the story and said he is going to sue the newspaper for libel.

"I have never had any such conversation with anyone that was described apparently in these documents which the Daily Telegraph have miraculously had in their hands," he said. "Therefore, somebody somewhere has fabricated them."

The newspaper article has only added to the controversy over Mr. Galloway's long-standing support of Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Galloway was already facing an inquiry from the ruling Labor Party following his recent call for British troops not to fight the Iraqis, comments that Prime Minister Tony Blair called "disgraceful and wrong."

Some members of the opposition Conservative Party have even called for Mr. Galloway to be tried for treason.

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