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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 October, 2004, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
US publishes Saddam 'bribe list'
Iraqi oil pipeline at Basra, 1999
Oil is Iraq's most valuable asset
Saddam Hussein sought to influence world figures with "oil vouchers" in a bid to get UN sanctions lifted, the US Iraq Survey Group has said in a report.

The report, published on the CIA's website, lists names said to have been obtained from two senior Iraqi officials captured last summer.

It does not say if any attempt was made to verify the data, and notes that some vouchers were issued legitimately.

Several figures named in connection with the scheme have denied wrongdoing.

Shadowy sanction-busting deals also netted the regime some $11bn, according to the report which is part of a 1,200-page survey compiled for the CIA by Charles Duelfer, head of the ISG.

Information on the voucher scheme, the report says, was gleaned from 13 secret files kept by Iraq's former Vice-President, Taha Yassin Ramadan, and the former Oil Minister, Amir Rashid.

Lengthy list

According to the ISG's findings, President Saddam Hussein particularly targeted officials from Russia and France - both of them veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Saddam Hussein pictured in 2002
Saddam's government suffered international sanctions after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait
The ISG points out that at least some of the vouchers - which permitted recipients to purchase varying amounts of oil at a profit - were issued legitimately through the UN's Oil For Food (OFP) programme.

Equally, it stresses that receipt of a voucher did not mean it was ever actually cashed in.

The "known oil voucher recipients" listed relate to some 40 different countries and include former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua, Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Benon Sevan, the former head of the OFP programme for Iraq.

All three have denied accepting bribes, reports of which surfaced earlier:

  • Mr Sevan's position that he had done nothing wrong remained unchanged after the publication of the new report, said UN spokesman Fred Eckhard

  • Declaring in January that he had never accepted bribes, Mr Zhirinovsky suggested "somebody in the West" had an interest in discrediting Russia

  • An indignant Mr Pasqua told le Monde that other people may have received funds from Saddam's regime but: "Don't look in my direction".

Names of US companies or citizens found on the secret Iraqi lists were left out of the report on grounds of the US Privacy Act, the ISG report notes.

It also suggests the governments of Jordan, Turkey, Syria and Egypt engaged in an illegal oil trade with Iraq.

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