British MP’s contact with Saddam’s toppled regime refutes allegations of oil payoffs

Published May 1st, 2003 - 02:00 GMT

Jordanian businessman Fawaz Zureikat, accused of being the front man for British MP George Galloway’s alleged oil deals in Baghdad, told Menareport.com that the charges are “part of the Blair and Bush administrations’ campaign against all those who were opposed to war on Iraq.”  

 

Earlier this month, the Daily Telegraph reported that it had discovered Iraqi intelligence documents which suggested that Galloway took a slice of Iraq's oil-for-food program worth at least £375,000 ($596,800) per annum. According to the report, the details emerged in a confidential memo to Saddam from Iraq's intelligence chief written in January 2000. The documents were found by a journalist in the looted foreign ministry in Baghdad. 

 

Speaking about the events that affected his life over the past two months, including his incarceration by the Jordanian government for 21 days, Zureikat described the accusations by the British media as ‘fabricated and untrue’. He asserted, “These accusations have been fabricated by the pro-war camp…the documents published by the British newspapers are forged”. 

 

It is purported that Zureikat said in a meeting with Iraqi authorities that “his [Galloway’s] projects and future plans for the benefit of the country need financial support to become a motive for him to do more work and, because of the sensitivity of getting money directly from Iraq, it is necessary to grant him oil contracts and special and exceptional commercial opportunities to provide him with an income under commercial cover, without being connected to him directly."  

 

According to the paper, it is also said that Zureikat emphasized that the "name of Mr Galloway or his wife should not be mentioned". Galloway’s wife, Amina Abu Zayyad, is of Palestinian origin. This allegation was backed by a letter of representation that Galloway had sent to Zureikat appointing the latter as his representative. 

 

This point has been misconstrued in the Middle East largely due to a recent article in Al Sharq Al Awsat that published an Iraqi spy document as well as the representation letter obtained by them with Galloway’s letter head on it. The representation letter, which read in English “This is to certify that Mr Fawaz A Zureikat is my representative in Baghdad on all matters concerning my work with the Miriam Appeal or the Emergency Committee in Iraq,” was translated into Arabic as saying that Galloway gave Zureikat represention on all matters in Jordan and Iraq including commercial interests, which transpired to be untrue.  

 

According to Galloway, The ‘Miriam Appeal’ was a two part humanitarian effort aimed at helping an Iraqi child Galloway flew to Britain for leukemia treatment as well highlighting the disastrous effects UN sanctions had on Iraq.  

 

Zureikat believes that his name has been involved in the campaign against Galloway for many reasons. “First of all, I was in charge of the Miriam Appeal in Jordan and Iraq…everybody knows this. Secondly I have been associated with George Galloway in the humanitarian and political campaigns that aimed to lift sanctions on Iraq, which later shifted to a campaign against war-on-Iraq… so as far as the British government was concerned, including the Iraqi opposition and several Arab countries, the campaign was a thorn in their sides,” said Zureikat. 

 

As far as Galloway was concerned, “his daring announcements embarrassed such people and was a real challenge that provoked Arab public opinion against US and Britain led aggression,” said Zureikat. “The most important thing is that the US and Britain waged war on Iraq without an internationally legitimate cover, and so some parties are now demanding Washington and London withdraw from Iraq in compliance. In order to silence such voices, the US and Britain are launching their counter attacks on the likes of prominent personalities like Galloway and countries such as France,” added the Jordanian businessman who has been himself a target as well.  

 

For more than a decade, Galloway, Labor MP for Glasgow Kelvin, has been the leading critic of Anglo-American policy towards Iraq, campaigning against sanctions and the war that toppled Saddam. In the months prior to the war, France led an anti-war consortiumthat vehemently opposed US and British bilateral action against Saddam’s regime, which led to the failure of a second UN resolution that was required by the Anglo-American effort for War on Iraq. 

 

Available information about Zureikat’s activities indicates that he was a key catalyst behind the ‘Miriam Appeal’ in Jordan and Iraq. He organized several visits by British journalists, entertainers and athletes to Iraq through neighboring Jordan. He said “he often spent money from his own [personal] pocket on these visits… I am proud of what I did as the campaign was successful throughout Britain and the rest of the world.” Blair had a ‘high-stakes’ policy on the ground and hence his political future was threatened, particularly after the anti-war demonstrations spread in British cities and other capitals around the world. However, the acceleration to military operations following the end of the diplomatic route had saved the British premier in the very last moments,” said Zureikat. 

 

Zureikat met Galloway for the first time in 1999 through the latter’s wife who graduated from the University of Jordan and was a personal friend of the Zureikat family, a Christian family from the Southern Jordanian town of Karak. “The first meeting was warm, and the most noticeable thing to me was Galloway’s enthusiasm for Arab issues. It was very normal that I offer my services for his campaign whether that required time or money. I started with George from that point and our activities together grew, and the campaign received one million dollara in donations from the UAE and then from Saudi Arabia and others who made their donations out of humanitarian concerns,” said Zureikat. “I am neither a party leader nor a politician. As an Arab, I believe Iraq should come back to play its role amongst the world’s nations. We tried to free Iraq from the sanctions and help the Iraqi people rebuild themselves once again, as we believed this would be good for the entire Arab Middle East.” 

 

Responding to a question about his links to the former Iraqi regime, Zureikat said, “Following the ‘Miriam Appeal’, I had strong personal friendship with several Iraqi officials including Tariq Aziz who oversaw the Iraqi foreign policy. Zureikat admits he had never met Saddam Hussein or his two sons, as he was mainly concerned with business. “Business and politics do not mix well in Iraq as they may expose a businessman to risks in a country with very strict laws,” he said. He also asserted that his business was all within the parameters of the UN oil-for-food program and the Jordanian Iraqi protocol.  

 

“I did not violate this country’s laws and have all the evidence needed to prove it - for inquiry within Jordan only.” Zureikat also lashed out against the US for violating international law and the false accusations he has been hit with. “If big powers violate the international law, nobody else should be asked about their business either. Either the international law is respected as a whole or it is not. My government knew about my business activities and that the shipments I sent to Iraq through the borders were legal and according to the Jordanian laws.” 

 

Zureikat explained that he did not know anything about Iraqi oil deals or for that matter, anyone else involved in such deals. He said that his involvement with Galloway was purely for humanitarian efforts, and did not include any commercial interests. “The Iraqi government did not even pay Galloway the amount he spent on the ‘Miriam Appeal’.” George defended his political views as a politician and not as an employee working for others. He is a man of principles and not a hired man as the Brits and the US try to portray him,” added Zureikat.  

 

“Had Iraq paid him £300,000, Kuwait would have been able to pay him one million just to keep him silent...other countries were ready to pay him anything just to silence him. I am sure George was spending from his own [personal] money on the campaign in as much as he could.” 

 

Zureikat told Menareport.com that he has recently met with a Lebanese-British journalist who had just returned from Iraq, “the journalist told me that documents and official stamps belonging to the former Iraqi foreign ministry and intelligence have been scattered all over the streets…so it was easy for anybody to forge documents and make baseless accusations against Galloway”. — (menareport.com) 

© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)


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