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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Oil-for-Food Report Targets MPs

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. Senate committee said on Thursday that British Member of Parliament George Galloway and former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua benefited from the UN oil-for-food program in Iraq.

A report by the non-partisan committee said Galloway had been given "allocations" for 20 million barrels of oil while Pasqua got 11 million barrels, all with the personal approval of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Galloway, newly re-elected to the British parliament on an antiwar platform, rejected the allegations as "absurd."

"This is a political hatchet job done by [U.S. President] George W. Bush's committee in Washington," he told Sky News.

"The idea that the most scrutinized politician in Britain was secretly moonlighting as an oil trading billionaire is patently absurd," he added.

"This is merely the repetition of old allegations already discredited, and moreover, it is from a group of people who did not even want to speak to me, did not write to me, did not ask me a question and did not respond to my offer to go over to America and speak to them. It is all rubbish."

The allegations originally emerged shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The UN humanitarian program, which began in late 1996 and ended in 2003, was aimed at easing the impact of sanctions imposed after Hussein'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 surrounded by allegations of massive fraud and charges that Hussein used it to buy influence in the West.

"All told, this report paints a disturbing picture of the dark underside of the oil-for-food program," said Republican Senator Norm Coleman from Minnesota in a statement accompanying the report by the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

"This report exposes how Saddam Hussein turned the oil-for-food program on its head and used the program to reward his political allies like Pasqua and Galloway," he added.

The Iraqi government awarded lucrative oil rights or allocations to favored politicians and government officials which could then be sold to traders for up to 30 cents per barrel.

However, the report does not provide evidence of bank accounts showing the two men actually received funds.

Pasqua is a one-time close associate of French President Jacques Chirac. He has denied any wrongdoing and is now a member of the French Senate with parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

Galloway, expelled from British Prime Minister Tony Blair's ruling Labour Party for repeatedly challenging the Iraqi invasion, was re-elected a week ago on an independent ticket denouncing the war.

Five months ago he won 150,000 pounds ($282,800) in libel damages from the Daily Telegraph newspaper, which had made similar allegations on the basis of purported Iraqi Foreign Ministry documents.

The committee report released numerous documents, some of them hand-written, from the Hussein-era Ministry of Oil that identified Pasqua and Galloway as allocation recipients.

The report also indicated Galloway may have used a children's cancer foundation in connection with at least one of his allocations -- a charge he said had already been investigated and dismissed in Britain.