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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April, 2003, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Galloway row: Claims and rebuttal

Labour MP George Galloway has denied claims by the Daily Telegraph newspaper that Iraqi intelligence documents show he took money from Saddam Hussein's regime. Here are the main claims and the MP's rebuttals.

The main claim: That Mr Galloway took a cut of oil money worth at least 375,000 a year.

The Telegraph says the Iraqi intelligence chief, whose signature was "illegible", wrote a memorandum stating that the MP had told a spy: "He (Mr Galloway) needs continuous financial support from Iraq.

"He obtained through Mr Tariq Aziz (Iraq's deputy prime minister) three million barrels of oil every six months, according to the oil for food programme. His share would be only between 10 and 15 cents per barrel."

The document also says the MP "obtained a limited number of food contracts with the ministry of trade".

Response: Mr Galloway says he has never solicited any financial help of any kind from the Iraqi regime, nor would he have accepted any money if it had been offered.

He had "never seen a barrel of oil, never owned one, never bought one, never sold one".

The MP told BBC Breakfast the crux of the allegations could easily be proved false.

"The oil for food programme is run not in Baghdad but in New York at the United Nations," he said.

"So they (the Telegraph) are going to have to show the court where the United Nations sent me my cheque, when they did so, why they did so and why they needed to wait for the Daily Telegraph to rummage around the hell hole of the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in order to reveal it."

The meeting: The Telegraph says the alleged memo they have uncovered details a meeting between Mr Galloway and an unnamed Iraqi spy held on Boxing Day 1999.

Response: Mr Galloway insists such a meeting never took place.

He said: "I have never in my life to my knowledge ever met an Iraqi intelligence agent.

"And given my access, as it well known, to the very top leadership in Iraq on the political side, why would I conceivably wish to have such a conversation with an agent unnamed..."

The MP's representative: The Telegraph says Mr Galloway's intermediary in Iraq was the Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat".

The alleged memo says Mr Zureikat told Iraqi intelligence that the Mariam Appeal, which was founded by Mr Galloway to campaign for a lifting of the Iraqi trade embargo and against war, put his future as a British MP in doubt.

"His projects and future plans for the benefit of the country need financial support to become a motive for him to do more work," says the purported memo.

The newspaper said it also found a letter from Mr Galloway saying "to whom it may concern" that Mr Zureikat was his representative in Baghdad on everything involving the Mariam Appeal or the Emergency Committee in Iraq.

Response: Mr Galloway says Mr Zureikat was chairman of the appeal, and one of the three significant sources of its funds - the others being the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

About his own letter, he said: "It's a remarkable coincidence that that 'to whom it may concern' letter turns up in the same file as a letter purporting to be a report from the head of Iraqi intelligence, who the Telegraph tell us, has an illegible signature and who is not named."

Are the documents genuine? The Telegraph says its reporter David Blair came across the documents, by chance, in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry inside a file marked "Britain".

Mr Blair told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I find it very hard to believe that this document is not authentic...

"I think it would require an enormous amount of imagination to believe that someone went to the trouble of composing a forged document in Arabic and then planting it in a file of patently authentic documents and burying it in a darkened room on the off-chance that a British journalist might happen upon it and might bother to translate it.

"That strikes me as so wildly improbable as to be virtually inconceivable."

Response: Mr Galloway says Mr Blair himself says the other contents of the ministry had been completely destroyed.

"He couldn't explain why these files were unburned and un-destroyed," he said.

"And if you follow the Telegraph group you'll see that the previous Sunday they came up with intelligence issues surrounding France, the week before that, intelligence issues surrounding Russia and this week it's me.

"It seems that the Telegraph group are the sewer of choice for those interested in intelligence matters."

Wednesday's new allegations: The Telegraph publishes what it claims is a letter from Saddam Hussein's most senior aide rejecting Mr Galloway's demand for more money.

The letter, dated in May 2000, is purportedly a response to the intelligence chief's memo which started the row and which the newspaper says it found among Iraqi Foreign Ministry files.

General Dr Abdid Hamid al-Khattab, said to be responding on behalf of Saddam, says in the document that the original memo should be studied by a four man committee and the minister for Foreign Affairs.

"But the belief is that the person who is proposing the right path, even using western methods, needs exceptional support which we cannot afford and I do not think we can promise to do that if we consider it according to our policy."

Response: Mr Galloway denies soliciting or receiving any money from the Iraqi regime.

In a statement released before the new Telegraph claims, his solicitors said: "Mr Galloway has never, directly or indirectly, been granted, nor has he sought, oil or any other commercial contracts with Iraq, nor has he received any money from Saddam Hussein's regime.

"He has also never, so far as he is aware, met any member of Iraqi intelligence."

George Galloway MP
"This is a pile of black propaganda"

Daily Telegraph correspondent David Blair
"I came across the document in the middle of a blue folder"

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