France says Saddam bribes claim 'unverified'

7th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 7 (AFP) - France on Thursday dismissed accusations made in an official US report that French businessmen and politicians received bribes from Saddam Hussein in order to influence government policy on Iraq, with the foreign ministry describing them as "unverified."

PARIS, Oct 7 (AFP) - France on Thursday dismissed accusations made in an official US report that French businessmen and politicians received bribes from Saddam Hussein in order to influence government policy on Iraq, with the foreign ministry describing them as "unverified."  

The study by the Iraq Survey Group said that the former Iraqi president paid millions of dollars in cash and petrol export vouchers to elicit help in his bid to end the UN sanctions regime on his country. France and Russia were the main targets because of their seats on the UN Security Council.  

"It is important that we check very closely the truth behind these claims, because as far as we understand it the accusations ... are unverified either with the persons concerned or the authorities of the countries concerned," ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous said.  

According to the US report - whose main conclusion was the lack of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq - French recipients of Iraqi largesse included Patrick Maugein, a businessman believed by Saddam to have links with President Jacques Chirac.  

Former interior minister Charles Pasqua was said to have received export vouchers for almost 11 million barrels of crude, and the Iraqi-French Friendship Society vouchers for 10 million barrels.  

"Iraq sought out individuals whom they believed were in a position to influence French policy," the report's author chief weapons inspector Charles Duelfer concluded.   Maugein and Pasqua were unavailable for comment Thursday, but both denied the charges when they were first made in a leaked report to a Baghdad newspaper in January.  

"Of course I have never received a thing from Saddam Hussein, petrol nor anything else. Perhaps some other interior minister did, but certainly not me," Pasqua said.  

The French Socialist party meanwhile refused to respond to the accusation made in the report that it was given USD 1 million by Iraq in 1988. A spokesman said the party could not react to allegations of which it was only partially informed.  

According to the report the bribes in the late 1990s were made in the context of the UN's oil-for-food programme, which allowed Baghdad to sell a certain amount of crude in order to buy food and medicine for the Iraqi population.  

The vouchers, which were not in themselves illegal, were allocated according to a secret list and could be exchanged for cash.  

"Saddam personally approved and removed all names of voucher recipients. He made all modifications to the list, adding or deleting names at will," the report said.  

France and Russia both opposed US policy in Iraq, but the report did not allege directly that this was a result of Saddam Hussein's successful lobbying effort.  

"Maybe there are some people who could have been corrupted - it is possible - but the French position was not based on such arguments. France thought that what the US said about WMD was wrong and that we had to respect international procedures at the UN," said deputy Daniel Garrigue, president of the National Assembly's Iraq study group.

© AFP

 

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article