Britain denies role in Iraq oil "scam''

Hasan Suroor

LONDON: Britain on Saturday angrily rejected the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan's allegations over its role in the Iraqi oil-for-food scam even as a British businessman was accused by American authorities of paying millions of dollars in bribes to the Saddam Hussein regime as part of a secret deal over oil sales.

The British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, described as "inaccurate'' Mr. Annan's statement in which he appeared to blame Britain and America for the scam saying that large-scale smuggling of Iraqi oil to Turkey and Jordan in defiance of the U.N. sanctions took place under their "watch''.

Mr. Straw insisted that the Britain had been "consistently in the lead in seeking to enforce sanctions against Iraq''.

Arguing that Turkey and Jordan were "primarily'' responsible for preventing smuggling across their borders, he said: "Throughout this period, the United Kingdom was active against oil smuggling in the Gulf. The culpability for undermining U.N. sanctions against Iraq fell principally on Saddam Hussein and those who were working with him.''

Earlier, Mr. Annan was reported as saying, "The bulk of the money that Mr. Hussein made came out of smuggling outside the oil-for-food programme, and it was on the American and British watch. Possibly, they were the ones who knew exactly what was going on... ''

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