LONDON – Documents found in Iraq show that Saddam Hussein took steps to protect the reputation of a British legislator who vehemently opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, a British newspaper reported Thursday.
The report in The Daily Telegraph came on top of a story earlier this week by the same paper that sparked investigations into connections between George Galloway and the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Law enforcement officials have begun a preliminary investigation into whether Galloway misused money from an Iraqi aid charity he runs. The governing Labor Party is investigating separate allegations that Galloway also received money from Saddam's regime through the oil-for-food program.
Galloway has dismissed the allegations as lies and has instructed his attorneys to sue the Telegraph for libel.
On its Web site Thursday, the Christian Science Monitor reported that officials of Saddam's regime authorized six payments to Galloway, totaling more than $10 million, between July 1992 and January 2003, according to documents the newspaper obtained.
The Monitor said an Iraqi general had discovered the papers in a house outside Baghdad that was used by Saddam's son Qusay, who it said appeared to have authorized at least one of the payments.
One document, dated January 2003, reportedly authorizes a check of $3 million and says the money was in return for Galloway's "courageous and daring stands against the enemies of Iraq, like [Tony] Blair, the British prime minister, and for his opposition in the House of Commons and Lords against all outrageous lies against our patient people."
In a Baghdad-dated story, The Telegraph reported Thursday it found a letter dated May 6, 2000, in files of the looted Iraqi Foreign Ministry showing Saddam sought to protect Galloway by severing his contacts with Mukhabarat, the Iraqi intelligence and secret police service.
"It is better not to engage the Mukhabarat in the relationship with George Galloway, as he has been a well-known politician since 1990, and discovery of his relationship with the Mukhabarat would damage him very much," Izzat Ibrahim, one of Saddam's deputies, said in the letter reported by The Telegraph.
The newspaper said the memo emerged from a committee that had been established to examine Galloway's alleged request for more money.
In its report Tuesday, The Telegraph produced a memo from a senior Mukhabarat officer that it said suggested Galloway was receiving about $600,000 a year from Saddam's regime.
The newspaper later reproduced a memo allegedly written in response to the request by a senior aide to Saddam. It said Galloway asked for "exceptional support which we cannot afford."
However, the committee agreed that existing arrangements with Galloway about the oil contracts should continue, The Telegraph said. Under U.N. resolutions that followed the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq was allowed to sell some oil to buy humanitarian supplies.
On Thursday, Galloway told the British Broadcasting Corp., "This is a lie of fantastic proportions which only the most credulous would believe. ... The idea that the Iraqi regime was channeling to me, personally, hundreds of thousands of pounds is simply absurd."
Galloway has represented a district in Glasgow, Scotland, since 1987. In 1999, he drove from London to Baghdad in a red double-decker bus, receiving a hero's welcome.
During the Iraq war, Galloway gave an interview with Abu Dhabi TV accusing President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of attacking Iraq "like wolves," and calling on British soldiers to refuse to fight.