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Iraq to Probe Alleged Saddam Oil Bribes


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Iraq to Probe Alleged Saddam Oil Bribes

Jan 27, 9:01 AM (ET)

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq plans to investigate allegations that dozens of officials and businessmen worldwide illegally received oil in exchange for supporting former leader Saddam Hussein, officials said Tuesday.

Their statements came after al-Mada, an independent Baghdad newspaper, published a list it said was based on oil ministry documents showing 46 individuals, companies and organizations from inside and outside Iraq who were given millions of barrels of oil.

"I think the list is true. I will demand an investigation. These people must be prosecuted," Naseer Chaderji, a Governing Council member, told Reuters.

The list includes members of Arab ruling families, religious organizations, politicians and political parties from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Sudan, China, Austria, France and other countries.

Organizations named include the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Communist Party, India's Congress Party and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Assem Jihad, an oil ministry spokesman, said thousands of documents which were looted from the State Oil Marketing Organization after Baghdad fell to U.S. forces on April 9 may prove that Saddam used bribery to gain support.

"Anyone involved in stealing Iraqi wealth will be prosecuted," Jihad said.

Oil ministry officials say they have stopped selling oil to companies that may have acted as fronts to supporters of the toppled leader.

Entifadh Qnbar, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress, a secular party headed by former exile Ahmad Chalabi, said even Arab oligarchs from oil producing countries received oil from Saddam.

"These people took bribes. Sadly, the Iraqi people paid the price," Anbar said.

Despite U.N. sanctions, Iraq was allowed to sell oil from 1996-2003 under an agreement with the United Nations stipulating that proceeds from the oil sales be used to buy food, medicine and basic supplies.

But bankers say some international companies selling goods to Iraq may have paid commissions to Iraqi officials that were deposited in Arab banks in exchange for winning contracts under the oil for food deal.

Oil traders say Iraq also smuggled oil through southern ports not monitored by the United Nations and through a pipeline running to Syria.

Damascus says the pipeline was only operating for testing purposes.

"Saddam had no problem giving oil to whoever he wanted," said one Iraqi trader who did business with the former government.

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