Belfast Telegraph

George Galloway: US Senate committee will get bloody good hiding in Washington

By Ben Russell and Andrew Buncombe in Washington

George Galloway pledged that he would give a "bloody good hiding" to a US Senate committee over accusations that he was granted allocations for millions of barrels of oil from Saddam Hussein's regime.

Mr Galloway said he would fly to Washington next week to defend himself in person against allegations about the UN's oil-for-food programme published by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

The anti-war Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow denied claims in the committee's report that Iraqi documents and interviews with senior figures in Saddam's regime showed he was granted allocations of oil under the programme.

He denounced the committee for publishing the claims without giving him the opportunity to answer the allegations. He said: "Even in Kafka there was a trial of sorts."

Mr Galloway will face the committee next week after its Republican chairman, Norm Coleman, issued an invitation for him to appear on Tuesday. The firebrand left-winger will clash with Mr Coleman, the ambitious freshman senator for Minnesota whose website says that "full-throated debate on the issues of the day" were always on the menu at his childhood kitchen table.

A spokesman for Senator Coleman said Mr Galloway would be invited to appear at a meeting entitled "Oil For Influence: How Saddam Used Oil to Reward Politicians and Terrorist Entities Under the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme." He said: "The hearing will begin promptly at 9.30am and there will be a witness chair and microphone available for Mr Galloway's use."

Mr Galloway said he would accuse the committee of producing a "travesty" of natural justice.

He said: "I'm going to call them a bunch of liars.

"I'll be there to give them both barrels - verbal guns, of course, not oil - assuming we get the visas. I welcome the opportunity to clear my name. My first words will be 'Senator, it's a pity that we are having this interview after you have found me guilty.'

"This is a right-wing committee with an agenda that reached its conclusion before even considering the facts. Joseph McCarthy must be smiling admiringly in Hades."

The committee's report said Mr Galloway was named in documents from Iraq's ministry of oil.

A spokesman for the committee confirmed it had no evidence Mr Galloway benefited financially from the alleged allocation of 20 million barrels of oil.

"We have presented the evidence that the allocations were granted," Tom Steward, a spokesman for Senator Coleman, told The Independent.

"That was confirmed by the senior Iraqi government officials we spoke to. They knew he was being rewarded for his support for the regime. [But] we don't have the paperwork to confirm the final element of the transaction."

Mr Galloway said: "I have no problem with anybody investigating the oil-for-food programme because I had nothing to do with the oil-for-food programme in any shape or form.

"I have never traded in anything with Iraq and neither has anybody on my behalf. I have never profited a single penny piece from my work in Iraq."

He added: "The point is, who knows who wrote my name on that piece of paper and when they wrote it."

Mr Galloway said he contacted the US Senate to put his point of view, but had not been contacted by the committee to give evidence. But a spokesman claimed that "at no time did Mr Galloway contact the [committee] by any means, including but not limited to telephone, fax, e-mail, letter, Morse code or carrier pigeon."

The committee said it had sought to inform Mr Galloway of the allegations.

Galloway delivers


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