Page last updated at 21:34 GMT, Sunday, 29 June 2008 22:34 UK

Iraq to sue oil-for-food suspects

US dollars - generic file photo
International firms paid billions in bribes to Iraqi officials to win contracts

The Iraqi government has said it will file lawsuits in US courts against firms and people suspected of illegally profiting from a UN programme.

The UN oil-for-food programme allowed Saddam Hussein's government to sell oil in order to buy humanitarian supplies during UN sanctions from 1996-2003.

An inquiry found that 2,200 firms paid $1.8bn in bribes to Iraqi officials.

Meanwhile, a US army report has said there was little planning for events after Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement that the legal action was to recover damages and hold those who benefited from the illegal activity "accountable for their actions".

"The oil-for-food programme was subject to huge financial scandals by companies and others [who] conspired with Saddam Hussein to embezzle large sums of money through kickbacks, inflated prices and the supply of shoddy goods," he said.

A UN-commissioned inquiry headed by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker found that 2,200 companies in 66 countries had paid kickbacks to Iraqi officials to win supply contracts under the $60bn (30bn) programme.

The Iraqi statement did not name the firms or people the legal action will target nor when and in which courts the suits will be filed.

Unanticipated insurgency

The US army report says military and political leaders were so fixated on overthrowing Saddam Hussein that too little thought was given to what might follow.

The report covers the period from May 2003, soon after the invasion, to January 2005.

The US has been widely criticised for failing to anticipate the amount of rebuilding that would be required or the rise of the insurgency against the US-led forces.

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