Friday, October 15, 2004

Iraq oil clash between France and USA

French diplomats yesterday launched a bitter
counter-offensive against the United States in the U.N.
oil-for-food scandal, unveiling a list of American
companies that did business with Saddam Hussein through
subsidiaries in France.

In a move certain to rekindle smoldering animosities
with the Bush administration over the Iraq war, France's
ambassador to the United States delivered to Congress a
list of 30 American companies that sold goods to Iraq
through French subsidiaries during the oil-for-food

The companies on the list, delivered to the House
Government Affairs Subcommittee on National Security,
include divisions of major U.S. electrical, chemical and
pharmaceutical firms that did more than $522 million
worth of business with Saddam's regime, according to the

Ambassador Jean-David Levitte also noted that French
subsidiaries of Halliburton, the giant oil and
construction firm formerly headed by Vice President Dick
Cheney, did more than $130 mil- lion in business under
the program.

There was no mention in the documents about the scores
of French companies, businessmen and political figures
who were included on Iraqi Oil Ministry lists of
recipients of sweetheart oil deals from Saddam — deals
at the heart of the scandal.

The French document did not say whether any of the
American deals were illegal.

The decision to pass on the list was seen by an
investigator on the subcommittee as a bald-faced attempt
by the French to deflect attention away from the growing
number of allegations that secret arms and oil deals
with Saddam were behind France's vehement opposition to
the Iraq war.

A report released last week by CIA weapons inspector
Charles Duelfer said French politicians and businessmen
accounted for 15 percent of the total number of vouchers
handed out by Saddam's regime.

The vouchers enabled the people Saddam was courting to
purchase middleman oil contracts at discount rates and
then resell on the open market at substantial profits.

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