London (CNSNews.com) - A Senate subcommittee report released Thursday revealed that two prominent European politicians received rights to buy oil from Saddam Hussein's regime under the U.N.'s oil-for-food program.
Named in the report by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs were British MP George Galloway - one of Prime Minister Tony Blair's fiercest opponents over the war in Iraq - and former French government minister Charles Pasqua.
Galloway, an outspoken liberal, was kicked out of Blair's Labour Party during the war for comments he made to an Arab television station encouraging people in the Middle East to wage war against British and American troops. He founded his own party and was re-elected to Parliament last week.
Pasqua, the founder of a right-wing nationalist party, was France's interior minister from 1986 to 1988 and 1993 to 1995 and is still a member of the French Parliament.
The report said that Pasqua was granted the rights to buy 11 million barrels of oil, while Galloway was given 20 million barrels worth of rights. The report does not allege that either politician personally benefited from the allocations, which were designed by the oil-for-food program to regulate sales.
The subcommittee report, which was approved by both majority and minority members, stated that Iraq granted the allocations to foreign officials, journalists and terrorist organizations rather than traditional oil purchasers "to engender international support for the Hussein regime and against the U.N. sanctions" imposed after the first Gulf War.
On several occasions, Pasqua made statements in support of the normalization of relations between France and Iraq. He was instrumental in granting former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz a visa to visit France in 1993, according to the report.
The subcommittee said that the Miriam Appeal, a charity set up by Galloway to pay the medical bills of an Iraqi child, may have been used to conceal his dealings in Iraqi oil.
"According to senior Hussein regime officials, oil allocations were granted by Iraq because of Galloway's support for the Hussein regime and his opposition to U.N. sanctions," the report said.
Earlier this year, Galloway won $3 million in a libel suit against the conservative Daily Telegraph newspaper. The paper, citing documents found in Baghdad following the collapse of Saddam's regime, alleged that Galloway and his charity profited from the oil-for-food program.
The case is currently being appealed.
In retaliation for being thrown out of the Labour Party, Galloway set up his own anti-war party, Respect. He ran for Parliament in the poor, heavily Muslim district of Bethnal Green and Bow in east London, and in last week's general election, beat the sitting Labour candidate. It was Respect's only win of the night.
On Thursday, Galloway said he would travel to Washington to testify in front of the subcommittee next Tuesday. In a statement released by his office, he denied the allegations contained in the report and lashed out at the Senate committee and the Bush administration.
"These are the same false allegations which are still the subject of a libel action with the Daily Telegraph ," he said. "This is a lickspittle Republican committee, acting on the wishes of George W. Bush."
"I have written and e-mailed repeatedly asking for the opportunity to appear before the committee to provide evidence and rebut their assumptions and they have yet to respond, while apparently making a judgment," the statement said. "I have never traded in a barrel of oil, or any vouchers for it."
However, the subcommittee report stated that the documents it was based on "have no relation to those discussed in the Daily Telegraph ." After publication, the newspaper's source documents were found to be forgeries.
Subcommittee members also took issue with Galloway's assertion that he tried to contact them.
"Contrary to his assertions, at no time did Mr. Galloway contact the permanent subcommittee on investigations by any means, including but not limited to telephone, fax, e-mail, letter, Morse code or carrier pigeon," according to a statement released by the office of subcommittee chairman Norm Coleman (R-Minn.).
Wire reports from Paris said that Pasqua also denied the allegations in the report and stated that he had never "received any benefit whatsoever in whatever form from the authorities or the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein."
The oil-for-food program was set up by the United Nations and was intended as a way of raising money for humanitarian aid for ordinary Iraqis while keeping the sanctions imposed on Iraq following the first Gulf War.
Since the overthrow of Saddam and the end of the program, however, several investigations have been launched into politicians and U.N. officials who allegedly benefited through abuse of the program.
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