Oil-food benefited Russian leaders (WASHINGTON TIMES) By David R. Sands 05/16/05)
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A former top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a top
Russian nationalist politician are among those who received lucrative
oil deals from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein under the United
Nations´ troubled oil-for-food program, according to a new report
being released by a Senate investigation today.
Sen. Norm Coleman, the Minnesota Republican spearheading the Senate
probe, said the payoffs to former Russian Presidential Council head
Alexander Voloshin and Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir
Zhirinovsky fit the pattern that Saddam used to undermine the U.N.
sanctions by bribing high officials in key Security Council
"This is the way Saddam Hussein used the oil-for-food program to line
his own pockets and to curry favor abroad," Mr. Coleman said. "That´s
what the evidence clearly shows."
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on
investigations, which Mr. Coleman chairs, will air the charges of
influence peddling at a hearing tomorrow.
The hearing is also expected to include a confrontation with British
member of Parliament George Galloway, who fiercely has denied
accusations by Senate investigators that he received lucrative secret
benefits in return for his support of Saddam and his opposition to
the U.S.-led Iraq war.
Subcommittee staffers, in a background briefing late last week, said
their review of internal Iraqi documents and interviews with senior
Saddam-era officials turned up no evidence that Mr. Putin had
received secret oil allocations under the U.N. program.
But they said Russia, a prime opponent of the Iraq sanctions on the
Security Council, had been a major target of Saddam´s lobbying, which
had targeted officials in the Foreign Ministry, the Communist Party
and the Unity Party, the State Duma faction closest to Mr. Putin.
The deal for Mr. Zhirinovsky, a nationalist and outspoken U.S.
critic, was typical: The Senate investigators found that the party
leader secretly was given the rights to 75.8 million barrels of
discounted Iraqi oil from 1997 to 2002, which he could then resell to
legitimate oil firms. Mr. Zhirinovsky and his party made an estimated
$8.6 million on the scheme.
One unidentified Iraqi oil official, speaking to the Senate
subcommittee, said, "Of course, Zhirinovsky makes a profit. That´s
the whole point."
The Senate report also details allotments totaling 90 million barrels
of Iraqi oil to Alexander Voloshin, former head of the Kremlin´s
Presidential Council, and his top aides including Sergey Issakov.
Mr. Voloshin was perhaps Mr. Putin´s most powerful aide before he
lost his post in 2003 and was referred to by many as the "power
behind the throne in Moscow." The estimated profits to the Russian
Presidential Council officials totaled nearly $3 million.
The report also tracks a change in Saddam´s efforts to subvert the
U.N. program in 2000, when he began demanding a "surcharge" from
those receiving the oil allocations as a way to build up his own
treasury. At one point, Mr. Zhirinovsky offered the Iraqi leader the
deed on a building that his party owned in Moscow to help pay his
Tariq Aziz, Saddam´s former deputy prime minister, told the
subcommittee how the influence-buying scheme worked in one instance.
In summer 2002, Mr. Aziz said, the threat of a Russian veto in the
Security Council blocked a U.S. proposal to tighten border controls
to strengthen the oil-for-food sanctions. Saddam told his oil
ministry to "show gratitude" by increasing oil allocations to Russian
interests and giving Russian companies contracts to sell food and
humanitarian goods under the U.N. program.
In all, about 30 percent of Saddam´s oil deals during the oil-for-
food period went to Russian applicants, even though Russia is the
world´s second largest exporter of oil after Saudi Arabia.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said over the weekend that it would
be "unethical" to comment on the scandal until a separate
investigative panel appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan reports
on the allocation scandal later this year.
Mikhail Troyansky, deputy chief of the Foreign Ministry´s information
department, said Russia has been cooperating with that investigation,
led by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. (Copyright
2005 News World Communications, Inc. 05/16/05)
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