Ex-French minister denies Saddam oil bribes
PARIS, May 12 (AFP) - Former French interior minister Charles Pasqua on Thursday denied taking kickbacks in the 1990s from Saddam Hussein's ousted Iraqi regime under the UN oil-for-food programme, as alleged in a US probe.
“In January 2004, and then again in October 2004, I denied having received any advantages whatsoever, in any form, from the Iraqi authorities or the regime of Saddam Hussein,” Pasqua said in a statement.
A US Senate committee said Thursday it had “detailed evidence” that Pasqua and controversial British MP George Galloway received “lucrative oil allocations” in kickbacks from Baghdad.
The report by the US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is based on what it says are Iraqi oil ministry documents and testimony of senior officials in Saddam’s regime, ousted in the US-led invasion in March 2003.
Earlier reports pointing the finger at Pasqua’s alleged illicit involvement in the oil-for-food programme emerged in January 2004 in the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada, and again in October 2004 in a CIA report.
“The report published today by the US Senate Permanent Sub-committee on Investigations is largely based on these earlier reports. Once again, I deny the allegations,” Pasqua said.
“This report also touches on points raised in articles published on April 28, 2005 in the Financial Times and an Italian daily, Il Sole 24 Ore. I will sue them for libel,” the former interior minister added.
The US Senate panel said it had found evidence that Pasqua received some 11 million barrels of oil in allocations from Iraq and that Galloway had received 20 million barrels.
US Senator Norm Coleman, head of the subcommittee, said: “This report exposes how Saddam Hussein turned the oil-for-food programmeme on its head and used the programmeme to reward his political allies like Pasqua and Galloway.”
Earlier, Galloway furiously denied the allegations as “a big lie.”
“Having not had any government responsibilities in France since 1995, I hope that those running the affairs of this country since that date will assume their own responsibilities,” Pasqua said.
Pasqua served twice as France’s interior minister – from 1986 to 1998 and again from 1993 to 1995. He is best known for pushing through a series of anti-immigration laws. The US panel said in its report that Pasqua sought to conceal his involvement because he “feared political scandals”.
The USD 64 billion UN oil-for-food programmeme, which ran from 1996 to 2003, allowed Baghdad, which was under international sanctions, to sell limited quantities of oil so it could buy food and medicines for the Iraqi people.
Last month, a former aide to Pasqua, Bernard Guillet, was placed under judicial investigation in France – a step short of formal charges – as part of a corruption probe connected with the UN oil-for-food programmeme.
Investigators believe Guillet received commissions from a middleman who brokered the resale of Iraqi oil.
Pasqua, as a member of the French senate, currently enjoys parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
Subject: French News