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Galloway challenges U.S. senators



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Galloway: "I demand they charge me with perjury and I'll be in the next plane to face it."

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George Galloway

(CNN) -- A British member of parliament accused of lying to U.S. senators about his dealings with Saddam Hussein said Tuesday that he was eager to confront any criminal charges in court.

"I'm demanding to be prosecuted. I'm begging to be prosecuted for perjury," said George Galloway, a day after a Senate report presented evidence it says links illegal oil money from Saddam Hussein's regime to Galloway's political campaign and to the accounts of his Jordanian wife.

Galloway told CNN: "Charge me with perjury and I will be on the next plane to the U.S. I'll face them in court. You cannot get clearer than that. It's put up or shut up."

The 65-page report by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations accuses Galloway of perjury and obstruction of congressional proceedings. The evidence will be handed over to the Department of Justice for possible criminal charges.

Galloway -- a left-wing politician known for his theatrical rhetoric and fierce debating style -- appeared voluntarily before the Senate panel on May 17 and denied having taken any money.

His appearance followed the release of a report by the subcommittee alleging that Hussein's government granted Galloway vouchers for some 20 million barrels of oil.

At the time, he challenged the chairman, Sen. Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican, to show evidence beyond what had been presented that day, which he called a "schoolboy howler."

"What counts is not the names on the paper; what counts is: Where is the money, senator? Who paid me hundreds of thousands of dollars of money? The answer to that is 'nobody,'" Galloway said at the time.

"And if you had anybody who ever paid me a penny, you would have produced them here today."

He said the investigation was intended to divert attention from the "pack of lies" that led to the Iraq invasion in 2003.

The subcommittee responded Monday in the report, which was sent by Coleman's office to the news media.

The report alleges:

• Galloway sought and received vouchers to sell Iraqi oil on eight occasions between 1999 and 2003 for a total of 23 million barrels.

• Galloway's now estranged wife, Dr. Amineh Abu-Zayyad, received roughly $150,000 in oil money.

• Galloway's political campaign, the Mariam Appeal, received at least $446,000.

• Hussein's regime got kickbacks of more than $1.6 million from the oil allotted to Galloway and the Mariam Appeal for sale in violation of U.N. sanctions.

• Galloway "knowingly made false or misleading statements under oath" before the subcommittee.

The report says Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat, a friend of Galloway, "transferred a significant portion" of money from an oil deal under the oil-for-food program to Galloway's wife and Galloway's Mariam Appeal.

He set up the organization in 1998 to raise money for medical aid for Iraq and to campaign against the imposition of sanctions on Iraq.

That foundation was named after Mariam Hamza, a child flown from Iraq to Britain by the fund to get treatment for leukemia.

Coleman's subcommittee is one of a handful to probe the United Nations oil-for-food program and push for U.N. reform.

The program sought to ease the toll of sanctions imposed by the United Nations after the 1991 Persian Gulf War by allowing Iraq to sell oil to provide revenue for humanitarian needs.

The program lasted from 1996 to 2003, when Hussein was deposed, and generated $64 billion in U.N.-monitored oil sales. Hussein subverted U.N. controls by extorting surcharges on the oil sales and kickbacks on the goods purchased.

Aziz testimony

In an interview with subcommittee members on July 7, former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz said, "The oil allocations we gave to George Galloway were in the name of either [Buhan Al-Chalabi] or to [Fawaz] Zureikat."

The report described the men as agents for Galloway.

Aziz also said allocations -- which gave the right to sell specific amounts of Iraqi oil -- were "for the benefit of George Galloway and for Mariam's Appeal. The proceeds from the sale benefited the cause and Mr. Galloway."

According to the report, the plan worked like this: A Swiss oil trading company, Taurus Petroleum, bought the allocated oil and then transferred a "sizable commission payment to Zureikat."

Zureikat then forwarded a portion of the commission to the Mariam Appeal, and in one transaction forwarded roughly $150,000 to Galloway's wife.

The report further alleges that Zureikat would pay any illegal surcharges to the Hussein regime.

In his subcommittee testimony, Galloway declared, "I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one and neither has anybody on my behalf."

The report includes a Citibank notice detailing a transfer of funds from Taurus Petroleum to Fawaz Zureikat in July 2000.

The report then documents transfers in August 2000 when it says Zureikat made a $150,000 wire transfer to Galloway's wife at Arab Bank in Amman, Jordan.

The report says Aziz recalled that Galloway "requested the Iraqi government to provide financial support for the Mariam Appeal in order to defray the expenses associated with conducting the campaign."

Aziz also said Galloway expressed concern about the appearance of taking money directly from the Iraqi government but that in December 1999 he asked for an increase in his oil allocations. Aziz told investigators there was a slight increase, "but not very much."

In response to questions from the subcommittee, the report says, Galloway confirmed he had appointed Zureikat as his representative in Baghdad on matters related to the Mariam Appeal.

The report includes excerpts from witness interviews, including an unidentified oil trader who says Galloway approached him to explain how the oil voucher system worked and how the vouchers could be translated into commissions.

The oil trader told investigators that in a meeting in his office he was "100 percent sure" that Zureikat was negotiating on behalf of Galloway to sell oil, the report says.

After a preliminary offer was drafted between the trader and Zureikat, the deal fell through, the report says.

The report also says Galloway failed to register his oil-for-food interests under the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament, which would require that he disclose gifts received by a spouse with a value exceeding 550 British pounds.

CNN's Liz Neisloss contributed to this report

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