Anti-War Legislator Took Cash From Saddam, Newspaper Says
July 7, 2008 - 8:13 PM
London (CNSNews.com) - One of Britain's most outspoken anti-war legislators is denying a newspaper report that he accepted oil money from Saddam Hussein's regime.
The Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday that documents found in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in Baghdad show Labor Party MP George Galloway requested at least $600,000 in proceeds from the U.N.-administered "oil for food" program.
Galloway, who represents a district in Glasgow, has been an outspoken opponent of war and of sanctions against Iraq.
He has traveled to Baghdad several times and courted controversy earlier this month when he called on British soldiers serving in the Gulf to disobey orders. However, he later welcomed the news that Saddam had been toppled.
Galloway is also head of the Mariam Appeal, an organization set up in 1998 and named after an Iraqi child he flew to Britain for leukemia treatment.
The Daily Telegraph reported that while he was raising funds for the campaign, he was also conducting business with Iraqi intelligence officials.
The paper published documents purportedly from the chief of Saddam's Mukhabarat secret service to the president's office. One, dated Jan. 3, 2000, outlined a meeting between Galloway and an Iraqi spy.
"He (Galloway) needs continuous financial support from Iraq," the secret service official wrote. "He obtained through (deputy prime minister) Tariq Aziz three million barrels of oil every six months, according to the oil for food program. His share would be only between 10 and 15 cents per barrel."
Under the oil for food program, Iraq was allowed to sell a limited quantity of oil in exchange for humanitarian supplies. The requested amount would have totaled anywhere from $600,000 to $900,000 per year.
The newspaper reported that in exchange for the payments, Galloway entered into a partnership with an Iraqi broker to sell oil on the international market.
The paper also said it found a letter written from the legislator certifying that a Jordanian businessman, Fawaz Zureikat, "is my representative in Baghdad on all matters concerning my work with the Mariam Appeal or the Emergency Committee in Iraq."
The memo from the Mukhabarat chief also described a meeting with Zureikat in which the businessman stresses the need to keep Galloway's name off of official transaction records.
"Because of the sensitivity of getting money directly from Iraq, it is necessary to grant him oil contracts and special and exceptional commercial opportunities to provide him with an income under commercial cover, without being connected to him directly," Zureikat said, according to the memo.
The broker said that the "name of Mr Galloway or his wife should not be mentioned."
Galloway denied the allegations in a statement and said the documents could have been forged.
"I have never solicited nor received money from Iraq for our campaign against war and sanctions. I have never seen a barrel of oil, never owned one, never bought one, never sold one," he said.
The MP could not be reached for further comment Tuesday, but he vigorously denied the allegations in an interview on BBC radio and threatened to sue the Daily Telegraph for libel.
"This is a pile of black propaganda, intelligence hocus pocus and the Daily Telegraph have either been a party to it or they have been hoodwinked by it," he said. "But either way, they will answer for it in front of the British courts."
Galloway said that if he wanted to ask for money from Baghdad, he could have gone directly to senior Iraqi officials.
"Given that I have had access over the years to Iraq's political leadership, most often the deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, I would have absolutely no reason to be meeting with an official of Iraqi intelligence," he said.
Speaking from Portugal, where he is working on a book about Iraq, Galloway said he hadn't seen the documents printed in the newspaper but said they were probably part of a "smear campaign" against opponents of the war.
"From the way they have been described to me, I can state that they bear all the hallmarks of having been either forged or doctored and are designed to discredit those who stood against the war," he said.
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