- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2004

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan and Bulgaria announced Wednesday they are investigating charges of prominent citizens being part of a scam involving illicit sales of Iraqi oil in exchange for political support of Saddam Hussein while he was Iraq’s leader.

And in Egypt, activist Mamdouh el-Sheik said he would ask his country’s prosecutor-general to reopen an investigation on the involvement of Egyptians after reports about kickbacks.

An Iraqi newspaper, one of dozens of new dailies that have begun publishing in that country since Saddam’s ouster last April, reported the bribes this week.

Members of the new provisional Iraqi Governing Council and opponents of Saddam have since distributed a list of the accused, based on documents from the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

About 270 former Cabinet officials, legislators, political activists and journalists from more than 46 countries are on the list. They are suspected of profiting from Iraqi oil sales that Saddam offered them in exchange for cultivating political and popular support in their countries.

The list gives the names of 14 Amman-based firms and Jordanian citizens, including former government officials and legislators.

“The issue is under follow-up, and we are seeking to verify if some people have acquired [Iraqi] graft,” Mohammad al-Halaiqa, a deputy prime minister and minister of trade and industry, told Jordan’s parliament in response to calls for an inquiry by deputy Saad Hayel Srour on the reported bribes. Mr. Srour demanded an immediate government investigation.

The Baghdad list also says the Bulgarian Socialist Party had sold 12 million barrels of Iraqi oil.

Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov said the charge that his Socialist Party received money from Iraq was “ill-advised black humor,” but he ordered an inquiry into the accusation, his office said Wednesday.

Eleven Egyptians or Egyptian companies are also on the Baghdad list, including the son of a former Egyptian president, businessmen, members of parliament and journalists.

In Iraq yesterday, a suicide bomber blew up a van disguised as an ambulance in front of a hotel. It sped through a security barrier in the heart of Baghdad, killing three persons — including a South African — and injuring 17.

Also, in the southern city of Nasiriyah, about 10,000 followers of a radical Shi’ite Muslim cleric forced the coalition-appointed provincial governor to vacate his office, insisting they would recognize only elected leaders.

“No to Israel. No to imperialism. No to America,” the crowd chanted. Coalition officials said the governor left his office to defuse tension but did not resign.

The bombing at the Shaheen — a hotel frequented by Westerners — confirmed intelligence warnings that insurgents might use ambulances to evade security checks.

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