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Galloway Delivers Scathing Remarks

Washington Post | May 18, 2005

British Parliament member George Galloway vehemently denies any involvement in the oil-for-food scandal during a hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

British lawmaker: GOP 'lynch mob' after me
Galloway says he'll challenge U.S. senators at Iraq hearing

MSNBC News Services | May 17, 2005

WASHINGTON - British lawmaker George Galloway said Tuesday he would reject charges at a U.S. Senate hearing from a “Republican lynch mob” that he profited from the Iraq oil-for-food program.

Pursued by a crowd of British journalists, Galloway arrived at the hearing just minutes before it began reviewing testimony aimed at exposing corruption in the now-defunct U.N. program.

“This group of neocons (neoconservatives) is involved in the mother of all smokescreens,” he said of the committee. “I want to turn the tables on this neocon, pro-Israel, pro-war, Republican lynch mob.”

He earlier told Reuters that he had "no expectation of justice from a group of Christian fundamentalist and Zionist activists under the chairmanship of a neocon (President) George Bush who is pro-war.”

“I come not as the accused but as the accuser,” he added.

Galloway had similar words for Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who chairs the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which called Tuesday's hearing.

“It’s Mr. Coleman who’s been all over the news and he’s a lick-spittle, crazed neocon who is engaged in a witch hunt against all those he perceives to have betrayed the United States in their plan to invade and occupy Iraq,” Galloway told Associated Press Television News.

Galloway is a witness at the hearing on how ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein used oil to reward politicians, particularly from Russia, France and Britain, under the humanitarian oil-for-food program.

'Appeal to public opinion'
Galloway, a maverick kicked out of the Labour Party for his fervent opposition to the Iraq war and for personal attacks on Prime Minister Tony Blair, dismissed allegations by the committee that he had benefited from the program.

“I’m not going there to change the minds of the committee, but to appeal to public opinion and to show just how absurd this report is,” he said. “Justice George Bush style ... is what I expect from the rightwing hawks in Washington.”

The committee last week released documents it said showed Saddam gave Galloway the rights to export 20 million barrels of oil under the defunct humanitarian program.

Former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua, now a French senator, also was named in the Senate report, which said he got vouchers for 11 million barrels. Pasqua, who also angrily denied the allegations, will not be at the hearing.

The U.N. oil-for-food program, which began in late 1996 and ended in 2003, was aimed at easing the impact of sanctions imposed after Saddam’s troops invaded Kuwait in 1990.

Baghdad was allowed to sell oil to buy basic goods and could negotiate its own contracts, but the program has been dogged by allegations of massive fraud and charges Saddam used it to buy influence in the West.

Russian allegations
Coleman said Tuesday’s hearing would also give details about the massive volume of Iraqi oil allocations to Russia’s presidential council, which advises President Vladimir Putin.

A Senate report released Monday said Saddam’s government provided Putin’s former chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin, and the council with oil rights worth nearly $3 million in exchange for support to lift U.N. sanctions against Iraq imposed in August 1990 after Baghdad’s troops invaded Kuwait.

Senate investigators said there was no evidence that Putin knew of the payments.

The committee also said 75 million barrels of oil were allocated to Vladimir Zhirinovsky, an ultranationalist Russian parliamentarian who made frequent visits to Iraq, or his political party.

U.S. looked other way?
In both cases, the Houston-based firm Bayoil Inc. or its subsidiaries helped arrange transport and contracts to sell the oil in the United States and elsewhere, according to the report, which was released by the minority Democrats on Coleman’s subcommittee.

The new document studied two issues: Bayoil’s involvement in oil-for-food and a single instance that saw Saddam’s regime smuggle more than 7 million barrels of oil out of the Iraqi port of Khor al-Amaya, apparently with U.S. knowledge, in the weeks before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Democrats on the committee said the report suggested that Washington looked the other way as Bayoil bought Iraqi crude and sold it to American refineries.

“We’ve got to look in the mirror at ourselves as well as point fingers at others,” Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters.

The report found that Bayoil imported some 200 million barrels over two years starting in September 2000 and sold it to U.S. oil companies. That was at a time when Saddam was trying to tinker with the price of oil so that when he sold it, companies could be compelled to pay him kickbacks.

The report claimed that Bayoil paid “directly or indirectly” some $37 million in kickbacks to Saddam even at a time that the United States and other members of the council had realized what Saddam was doing and began ordering price hikes to quash the kickbacks scheme.

Bayoil then sold the crude to U.S. companies, though there is no evidence the companies knew about the kickbacks, the report said.

Bayoil USA owner David Chalmers’ lawyer could not immediately be located for comment late Monday. The report said Bayoil officials had refused to cooperate with the investigation. But Chalmers himself has denied wrongdoing in court.

U.S. office cited
The committee singled out the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control, which the United Nations repeatedly warned about Bayoil’s scheme. It cited an apparent misunderstanding in which U.S. authorities assumed the United Nations would monitor individual companies, while at the United Nations, oil-for-food officials thought that was the responsibility of national governments.

The report’s focus on the single instance of oil smuggling, through Khor al-Amaya, was meant to illustrate how Saddam sold oil outside oil-for-food.

The committee cited an October report by U.S. arms inspector Charles Duelfer saying that while Saddam pocketed more than $225 million illegally under oil-for-food, he made some $8 billion in illegal oil sales outside the program.

Many of the allegations made by Coleman’s subcommittee are not new. In April, for example, Chalmers was indicted in U.S. District Court for allegedly funneling kickbacks to Saddam. Chalmers has denied any wrongdoing.

But rarely had the allegations been spelled out with so much detail or scope. Coleman’s investigators have interviewed former top Iraqi officials and businessmen, who provided a behind-the-scenes look at how Saddam’s grand scheme worked.

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