Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Galloway tells senator 'put up or shut up' over oil cash

George Galloway, the Respect MP, yesterday denied claims by United States senators that he solicited money from Saddam Hussein's oil-for-food programme and had lied about it on oath. He also denied any knowledge of an alleged $150,000 (£83,000) payment to his Palestinian-born wife said to have derived from Iraqi oil money.

Responding to a report published by an investigative committee of the US Senate on Monday he challenged senators to either charge him with perjury, or drop the allegations. "I am demanding prosecution. I'm begging prosecution. If I have lied under oath to the Senate, that's a criminal offence. Charge me and I'll head for the airport right now" he said yesterday.

George Galloway: ‘charge me’
The committee's report accuses the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow of personally soliciting and being granted eight oil allocations worth a total of 23 million barrels from Saddam's regime between 1999 and 2003.

It claims to have traced bank records showing that Mr Galloway's wife Amineh Abu-Zayyad, with whom he then lived but from whom he is now estranged, received approximately $150,000 in connection with one allocation of oil paid into her account by the Jordanian businessman and close friend of the couple Fawaz Zureikat.

It further alleges that Mr Galloway's political campaign, the Mariam Appeal, received at least $446,000 in connection with the oil allocations granted to Mr Galloway. And it accuses him of knowingly making false or misleading statements under oath when he gave evidence to the committee in May.

Mr Galloway yesterday cancelled a planned lecture in Ormskirk, Lancs on the subject of media manipulation to give a series of interviews in which he repeated denials that he had received any money from Iraqi oil, and challenged the chairman of the committee, the Republican senator Norm Coleman, to "put up or shut up".

He told Radio 4's Today programme that he had "absolutely no idea" about the alleged payment to his wife in August 2000 by Mr Zureikat, who was the chairman of the Mariam Appeal and at whose wedding Mr Galloway was best man. "I am not responsible for my wife. I am not party to Mr Zureikat's business arrangements. I am completely bemused," he said.

He added his wife had worked as an independent scientific researcher in Iraq and Jordan on the issue of depleted uranium and childhood cancers and was "herself now a cancer patient, possibly as a result".

He said: "I knew she had funding for that research. I did not know she had received money from Mr Zureikat, if she indeed had". Neither did he know of an alleged payment of $15,666 on the same day made by Mr Zureikat to Mr Galloway's spokesman Ron McKay. Mr McKay had said he has no recollection of the payment.

Dr Abu-Zayyad, 51, is quoted in the senate report specifically denying she "solicited or received'' any money from Iraq or oil deals "either for myself or my former husband".

Mr Galloway said nobody had ever given him "one thin dime" from an oil deal or any other deal, and accused "this lick-spittle Sen Norm Coleman" of orchestrating a "sneak revenge attack" because he had "publicly humiliated him in the Senate in May. "

The report cites testimony from the former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, who allegedly told investigators that Mr Galloway had requested oil allocations in the name of Mr Zureikat, and former Iraqi vice president Taha Tasin Ramadan, who is quoted as saying the MP was granted oil allocations "because of his opinions about Iraq".

But, on the Respect website yesterday Mr Galloway said: "On the one hand the US government accuses these men of being homicidal maniacs, on the other they assert that their coerced testimony is utterly trustworthy.''

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