Iraqi Papers Detail Efforts to Buy Favors

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 13, 2005

UNITED NATIONS, May 12 -- Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein tried to buy influence in French and Russian political circles, according to Iraqi intelligence documents released Thursday by a congressional committee investigating corruption in the $64 billion U.N. oil-for-food program.

The documents, released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, describe Iraqi intelligence plans to influence politicians and businessmen with close ties to French President Jacques Chirac and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

They are among the first of a large trove of Iraqi documents scheduled to be released by congressional investigators. Congressional aides said the papers will detail the former Iraqi government's efforts to use its oil wealth to buy political support for efforts to end U.N. sanctions.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), the chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, plans to release between 400 to 600 pages of documents Monday naming foreign nationals who allegedly paid kickbacks to Iraqi officials or promoted Hussein's cause in exchange for lucrative trade deals.

According to a February 2002 memo, the assistant director of the Iraqi intelligence service outlined a proposal to leverage valuable oil contracts to promote a candidate in France's presidential campaign that year. He wrote that "political and economic individuals close to the center of political decision making" would be granted special privileges in the oil trade.

Iraqi agents identified several French individuals who they believed could gain them influence with Chirac, including Patrick Maugein, a French businessman, and Roselyn Bachelot, Chirac's former spokeswoman.

They also targeted other influential French individuals who could help improve Baghdad's relationship with France, which participated in the 1991 Persian Gulf War against Iraq. The list included former president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, former French presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Chevenement and a former leader of the European Commission, Jacques Delors.

The documents do not prove that the Iraqis succeeded in bribing any French officials to gain their support . But they bolster previous allegations that at least some prominent French politicians, including former French interior minister Charles Pasqua, were offered lucrative trade deals, and that Iraq enjoyed a sympathetic ear in Chirac's inner circle. Pasqua has denied receiving rights to buy Iraqi oil.

A May 6, 2002, memo describes a meeting between a senior Iraqi intelligence agent and Bachelot, Chirac's spokeswoman, during the 2002 French presidential campaign. Bachelot, a French legislator, allegedly assured the Iraqi official that Chirac would press for an end to the sanctions, which barred Iraq from selling its oil abroad.

"The French position opposed any American attack on the nation, and France will use the right of opposition within the Security Council against any American decision regarding the attack on Iraq," Bachelot told the Iraqi official, according to the document. Efforts to reach Bachelot last night were unsuccessful.

The Iraqis pursued a similar strategy in Russia, cultivating ties with several Russian officials, including a Putin adviser and a former Middle East expert in the foreign ministry, according to a March 2002 memo.

Sergei Trepelkov, a spokesman for the Russian mission to the United Nations, said that he could not comment on the details of the documents, which he said have not been presented to the Russian government. But he noted that Russia is cooperating with a U.N.-appointed panel investigating corruption in the U.N. humanitarian program.

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