Galloway ally sells US arms kit to Iraq

By Severin Carrell
22 May 2005

The Jordanian businessman at the centre of claims that George Galloway secretly bought oil from Saddam Hussein has a major contract to sell US military technology in Iraq, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Fawaz Zureikat has been accused by a US Senate committee of orchestrating illegal oil deals with the Iraqi dictator allegedly on behalf of Mr Galloway, the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, and a charity they jointly ran. Both men deny the claims.

Mr Galloway last week confronted the senators involved in Washington, and accused them of being "cavalier with justice" and making "schoolboy" errors.

It has now emerged that a firm run by Mr Zureikat, 51, and other members of his family, has the exclusive rights to sell highly sensitive military encryption technologies made by a US firm in Iraq.

Their company, Middle East Advanced Semi-conductors, was awarded the contract in January 2004 by the US firm Transcrypt to sell its specialised chips to the Iraqi military, police and government. The same chips are heavily used by the US army, other major US federal agencies and other secret military clients in the Middle East.

A Transcrypt spokeswoman confirmed that all exports and sales contracts - including its deal with Mr Zureikat's firm - first have to be authorised by the US government under strict export control rules.

Mr Zureikat has been named several times as an oil dealer with Saddam's regime, handling contracts to trade eight million barrels of oil. But the Senate committee and various Iraqi documents - of disputed authenticity - have also alleged that he illegally traded in black market oil, and paid kickbacks to Saddam's senior officials.

Last night, Mr Galloway's spokesman claimed the revelation about Mr Zureikat's military contract suggested he was a far more credible and substantial figure than the US Senate Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations had alleged.

A spokesman for the committee's Republican chairman, Senator Norm Coleman, said that the contract was irrelevant to its investigations into abuses of the UN-controlled "oil for food" programme in Iraq.

Meanwhile, doubt has been cast by Mr Galloway's advisers on the authenticity of the four documents used by Senator Coleman to brand the MP an oil trader last week. They insisted yesterday the Senate had so far only shown them English-language translations of allegedly genuine Iraqi documents.

The Arabic originals, which were mostly hidden behind the English translations, appeared to be very blurred, repeatedly copied documents.