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UK MP fights Iraq oil claims

Galloway denies the allegations made by the committee.
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
George Galloway

LONDON, England -- British MP George Galloway is on his way to Washington to fight claims that he profited from Saddam Hussein's regime.

Galloway will appear before U.S. senators who accused him of receiving vouchers for millions of barrels of oil from the former dictator.

Before boarding his flight at London's Heathrow Airport, the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow once again strongly denied the claims.

He told the BBC: "The truth is I have never bought or sold a drop of oil from Iraq, or sold or bought a drop of oil from anybody.

"If I had I would be a very rich man and the person who made me rich would already be in the public domain."

The U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations last week released documents that it said showed Saddam personally granted Galloway the rights to export 20 million barrels of oil under the now-defunct U.N. oil-for-food humanitarian program. (Full story)

Galloway is due to appear before the committee on Tuesday.

A radical kicked out from the Labour party for his fervent opposition to the Iraq war and personal attacks on Prime Minister Tony Blair, Galloway said he was looking forward to putting his side of the story across.

"I am going to put them on trial, the villains of the piece -- the U.S. government and those politicians who support it," he told Reuters.

Galloway, who was a vocal critic of U.N. sanctions against Iraq, met Saddam during visits to Baghdad in the 1990s.

He was elected in the previously Labour safe east London parliamentary seat of Bethnal Green and Bow in the May 5 election after he narrowly beat the sitting Labour MP.

The victory was thanks in part to the Muslim vote turning to his Respect party because of discontent in the Islamic community about the war in Iraq.

The 96-page Senate report, initiated to examine fraud in the U.N. oil-for-food program, also said Charles Pasqua, the former French interior minister who is now a French senator, got vouchers for 11 million barrels.

Under the program, Iraq could grant vouchers that could be used to either buy oil or be sold to trading companies. Both Galloway and Pasqua have denied the allegations.

A Senate report released Monday accuses top Russian politicians, including advisers to President Vladimir Putin, of engaging in illicit transactions with Iraq during the U.N. oil-for-food program. (Full story)

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