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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 May 2005, 21:12 GMT 22:12 UK
Explosive showdown in Senate
By Matthew Davis
BBC News, Washington

George Galloway
Mr Galloway gave one of the most flamboyant Senate testimonies ever

George Galloway had vowed to give US senators "both barrels" and after sitting - coiled - through an hour-and-half of testimony against him, he unloaded all his ammunition.

Far from displaying the forelock-tugging deference to which senators are accustomed, Mr Galloway went on the attack.

He rubbished committee chairman Norm Coleman's dossier of evidence and stared him in the eye.

"Now I know that standards have slipped over the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer, you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice," the MP declared.

The whole room scanned Mr Coleman's face for a reaction. The senator shifted in his seat - nervously it seemed.

It was the first time a British politician had been interrogated as a hostile witness at the US Senate - but Mr Galloway cast himself not as the accused, but the accuser.

On stage at the heart of American power, he attacked the US-led war on Iraq and accused Washington of installing a "puppet" regime there.

'Lions' den'

The Scotsman launched into his opening statement with relish.

This was not a wrestling match - it wasn't a contest
Senator Norm Coleman

He had never received any money or any allocations of oil from Iraq. He was not, as the committee alleged, a supporter of Saddam Hussein.

"I have a rather better record of opposition to Saddam Hussein than you do, and than any member of the British or American governments do," he told the committee.

Mr Galloway had expected to testify before a panel of 13 senators in what he termed their "lions' den".

But he faced off against just two, Mr Coleman and Democratic counterpart Carl Levin.

It was Republican Mr Coleman who bore the brunt of the attack in one of the Senate's most flamboyant confrontations.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong," he told the chairman, whom he labelled a "neo-con, pro-war hawk".

Mr Coleman tried desperately to take it without emotion, but at one point could not resist breaking in to a smile.

'He's no lyncher'

In the face of Mr Galloway's refusal to accept anything the senators were claiming might be true, they tried to establish a link between a Jordanian businessman who they believe received oil allocations from Saddam Hussein, and Mr Galloway's children's charity.

Senator Norm Coleman (l) listens to Mr Galloway

Mr Galloway said the businessman had given money to the charity but he, Mr Galloway, had never known where it came from.

The senators believe that it came from Iraq, but they could come up with no proof and their questions ended.

Senator Levin later said he was "deeply troubled" that Mr Galloway had "ducked the question".

But it was Mr Galloway who looked most satisfied as he left the vast, wood-panelled committee room.

Outside in a corridor he told reporters he thought he had put the committee on the ropes, saying of Mr Coleman: "He's not much of a lyncher."

The senators, however, were playing down the confrontation.

'A knockout'

"This was not a wrestling match," Mr Coleman protested. "It wasn't a contest."

Asked his reaction to the "unusual" manner of the witness, he replied: "I was not offended by what he had to say, it was not relevant.

"The theatre, the dramatics - I was not looking at that. I had one goal and it was to make a record."

The pundits disagreed. One observer of Capitol Hill politics declared the result: "Galloway by a knockout - before round five."

Others cast the confrontation as Braveheart on Capitol Hill.

But though he left the building professing himself satisfied with his trip to Washington, only time will tell whether Mr Galloway has blown away the allegations he described as the "mother of all smokescreens".

Mr Coleman said he didn't think Mr Galloway had been a "credible witness". If it was found he had lied under oath, there would be "consequences", he said.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch highlights from George Galloway's Senate testimony



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