Galloway rejects new U.S. accusations over Iraq

George Galloway on Tuesday angrily rejected new U.S. accusations that he profited from the U.N. oil-for-food programme for Iraq.

The flamboyant parliamentarian, an outspoken opponent of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, challenged Congressmen to charge him with perjury and pledged to fly out to Washington on the next plane to defend himself.

U.S. congressional investigators say they have evidence that Galloway profited from the U.N. programme. They also allege he knowingly made false or misleading statements to Congress in May when he denied the charges.

The Senate governmental affairs subcommittee on investigations will hand over its findings in a report to the U.S. Justice Department and to British authorities, said panel chairman Senator Norm Coleman.

Galloway, fiercely denying the charges, said: “I’m demanding that they charge me with contempt and with perjury, I’m demanding it.”

“If a Senate committee can go on the international airwaves without putting this to you, without sending me an advance and accuse me of lying under oath in front of a Senate committee, then I demand they charge me with perjury and I’ll be on the next plane to face it,” he told BBC Radio.

The report said evidence showed Galloway personally solicited and was granted oil allocations from the Iraqi government for 23 million barrels from 1999 to 2003.

It said Galloway’s wife, from whom he is now estranged, received about $150,000 (85,000 pounds) in connection with the allocations and that a fund he started, the Mariam Appeal, received at least $446,000.

Galloway has said he launched the Mariam Appeal cancer charity to help a sick Iraqi girl and for medical aid to Iraqi children. The subcommittee has suggested he used the fund to conceal oil payments.

The report also said Saddam Hussein’s government got $1.64 million in illegal “surcharge” payments or kickbacks in connection with oil allocations to Galloway and the Mariam Appeal.

Far from showing the usual deference of witnesses called by Congress, Galloway used the May hearing as a platform to attack the U.S.-led invasion.

The MP, ejected from the Labour Party for his opposition to the war and barbed attacks on Prime Minister Tony Blair, ridiculed Coleman and rejected as “utterly preposterous” accusations that he profited from the defunct oil-for-food programme.

Galloway was questioned as part of the subcommittee’s examination of how Iraq’s former government used oil to reward politicians, particularly from Russia, France and Britain, under the U.N. programme that was meant to protect the Iraqi people from the harsh effects of sanctions on Saddam’s government.

Coleman said Galloway had been “anything but straight with the Congress and the American people.”

The report, which included copies of banking documents and wire transfers, said that Fawaz Zureikat, a Jordanian businessman and a friend of Galloway’s, received money in connection with an oil allocation and transferred “a significant portion of that money” to Galloway’s wife and to the Mariam Appeal fund.

(Additional reporting by Vicki Allen in Washington)