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US charges man 'on Saddam's pay'

The US congressmen - David Bonior, Mike Thompson and Jim McDermott - with an Iraqi official during the 2002 trip to Iraq.
The lawmakers criticised US war preparations during the trip

A US man who organised a trip by three US lawmakers to Iraq in the run-up to the war has been charged with working for the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Muthanna al-Hanooti, who worked for an Islamic charity, was arrested on Tuesday when he entered the US from abroad, officials said.

Prosecutors say Iraqi intelligence officials paid for the lawmakers' trip.

The congressmen travelled to Iraq in October 2002 and expressed concern at US preparations for war.

Mr Hanooti, who worked for the Life for Relief and Development, appeared in court in Detroit on Wednesday where he was released on bail.

Prosecutors also said he was responsible for monitoring Congress for Iraqi intelligence - allegedly providing Baghdad with a list of lawmakers he believed favoured lifting economic sanctions against Iraq.

In exchange for co-ordinating the congressional trip, Mr Hanooti allegedly received two million barrels of Iraqi oil, prosecutors said.

Congressmen 'not aware'

The indictment against him does not mention the Democratic lawmakers who made the trip - Jim McDermott, David Bonior and Mike Thompson.

And there is no indication they were aware the trip was financed by Saddam Hussein's regime.

"Obviously we didn't know it at the time," said Mr McDermott's spokesman Michael DeCesare.

"The trip was to see the plight of the Iraqi children. That's the only reason we went," the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying.

At the end of their stay in Iraq, the lawmakers pressed both the Iraqi and the US administrations to allow the return of the United Nations weapons inspectors.

"There is a way to solve this crisis without war," said Mr Thompson at the time.

"It is for the Iraqis not to interfere and for the United States not to interfere in the inspections process."





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