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Last Updated: Monday, 16 May 2005, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Russians accused over Iraqi oil
Iraqi oil pipeline at Basra, 1999
There are many investigations into the oil-for-food programme
A US Senate committee has accused Russian politicians of accepting millions of dollars in oil allocations from Saddam Hussein.

A report from the committee said Iraq offered the allocations to persuade Moscow to lobby for an end to UN sanctions against Iraq.

Much of the committee's information was provided by former Iraqi officials.

Russia's foreign ministry has declined comment until a UN-appointed committee issues a final report in the summer.

About 30% of the oil Iraq sold via the UN-administered oil-for-food programme was allotted to Russia, it said.

Last week, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said it had evidence that former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua and British MP George Galloway had received oil allocations, charges vigorously denied by both men.

Mr Galloway has said he will testify before the committee on Tuesday. Mr Pasqua said he had yet to be invited, but would defend himself "when the time comes".

"I don't intend to sit idly by," he said, accusing "certain people" of having used his name to commit fraud within the oil-for-food programme.

Multiple investigations

The report is the latest in a series of publications from the Senate committee and from a UN panel chaired by former US central banker Paul Volcker.

Other revelations have come from the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), set up by the US to search for weapons of mass destruction.

All three have pointed to massive smuggling of oil outside the oil-for-food programme, which the ISG estimated earned Iraq $8bn.

Most went through Turkey and Syria - with the US and UK turning a blind eye to the trade, many observers believe.

Presidential aides named

The Senate's latest report deals instead with the official oil-for-food trade, which the ISG estimated raised some $1.5bn for Iraq.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky
Mr Zhirinovsky denies taking bribes from Iraqi officials

The senators accuse a number of senior Russian politicians and officials of accepting allocations of oil which could then be sold at a profit.

Russia is an oil exporter, and therefore would have been unlikely to need the oil, the report says.

The report mentions former presidential aides Alexander Voloshin and Sergei Issakov, and ultranationalist MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

Influence on policy

Based on documents from Iraq's state oil firm and from US oil firm Bayoil - an intermediary whose managers were indicted by the US in April - the committee says millions of barrels were allocated to the three men.

Its report said Mr Issakov and Mr Zhirinovsky personally negotiated allocations.

And it suggests the contracts could have brought profits of $16m to the Russian Presidential Council, at the time headed by Mr Voloshin, and $8.7m to Mr Zhirinovsky, although it does not present direct evidence of receipt of any money.

Speaking last year in response to earlier reports of corruption in the former Iraqi regime, Mr Zhirinovsky said he had never accepted bribes and that "somebody in the West" had an interest in discrediting Russia.

The senators say the allocations were part of a scheme to influence the Russian government's policy towards Iraq and UN sanctions.

They also provided revenue to the Iraqi government, which demanded kickbacks on each barrel it shipped between 2000 and 2002.

Much of the information was given to the Senate committee by two former Iraqi officials, Tariq Aziz, the one-time Deputy Prime Minister, and Taha Yassin Ramadan, a former Vice-President.


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