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Russia Denies Oil Companies Took Bribes from Saddam - 2004-02-03

Russia's foreign ministry has dismissed media reports that major Russian oil companies took bribes from former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime.

A Russian foreign ministry statement says recent Western media reports that Iraq's former regime bribed Russian oil companies with oil and cash were false and based on the misunderstanding of the U.N. oil-for-food program.

The reports, carried in the West and Iraq, said 200 organizations considered leading supporters of Saddam Hussein were given millions of barrels of crude oil under the U.N. oil-for-food program.

Among the 50 Russian entities cited in the media reports were leading oil companies, government agencies, political parties, and even the Russian Orthodox Church.

The foreign ministry denied Russian involvement, saying all Iraqi oil exports to Russia complied with the terms laid out by the United Nations. It said all payments for oil were made to a U.N. account, not to the Iraqis.

The foreign ministry questioned the motive behind the reports, saying they have surfaced just as Russian companies are trying to return to the Iraqi market.