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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 May, 2005, 19:41 GMT 20:41 UK
Galloway accepts Washington call
George Galloway
Galloway rejects the charges as patently absurd
British MP George Galloway says he is ready to face down US senators who claim he received oil rights from Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Mr Galloway denies claims by a Senate committee that he and a former French minister were allowed to sell Iraqi oil to reward their support for the regime.

The committee said it would be "pleased" for Mr Galloway to appear at a hearing in Washington on 17 May.

The MP accepted, declaring he would take "them on in their own lions' den".

He told the BBC: "I'll be Daniel and I'll be triumphant".

Oil allegations

Speaking shortly after the report was published on Thursday, Mr Galloway said he had "never profited from anything related to Iraq".

He said it was "patently absurd" to think that, as an MP being closely watched by UK security services, he could have become an "oil billionaire" on the sly.

Saddam Hussein misused the oil-for-food programme to reward people he hoped would work against UN sanctions
Senator Carl Levin
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He added that he had "written and e-mailed repeatedly" requesting the opportunity to appear before the committee and rebut the claims, but it had "yet to respond".

A spokesman for committee chairman Senator Norm Coleman, inviting Mr Galloway to the hearing, denied that allegation.

"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," Mr Coleman's office said in a statement.

The Senate report also accuses former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua of receiving oil rights from Iraq. It claims both men were given potentially lucrative oil allocations as a reward for their support in calling for sanctions against the regime to be loosened.

Charles Pasqua
Pasqua issued a new denial after the report was published
It alleges that Baghdad gave Mr Pasqua the right to buy 11 million barrels of oil, while Mr Galloway had received an option on some 20 million.

Middlemen could collect commissions of three to 30 US cents per barrel of oil, the report said.

However, there was no evidence in the report that either men personally profited.

Mr Pasqua - now a French senator, with immunity from criminal prosecution - said he had denied similar accusations in the past, and was denying them again.

UN role

Both Republican and Democrat senators issued the report, which followed a year of inquiries by the Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigations.

The committee says it has evidence from documents drawn up by the Ministry of Oil under Saddam Hussein and interviews with "high-ranking Hussein regime officials".

Mr Coleman, the Republican senator who chairs the committee, is a sharp critic of the United Nations.

The UN's oil-for-food programme was a $60bn (32bn) scheme set up in 1996 to allow Iraq to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies with the proceeds of regulated oil sales.

The programme aimed to relieve the suffering of Iraqis under sanctions and was formally ended in 2003 after the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Questions over the way the programme was conducted emerged in early 2004, after an Iraqi newspaper published a list of about 270 people including UN officials, politicians and companies it alleged may have profited from the illicit sale of Iraqi oil.

Mr Pasqua's name appeared on the list. He issued a denial at the time.

For his part, Mr Galloway won substantial damages in a libel suit against the London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper over an article relating to his alleged role in the oil-for-food programme.

The Senate report said the documents it used to make the allegations "have no relation" to those discussed in the Daily Telegraph piece.

Listen to George Galloway respond to the report's claims

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