Saturday, March 12, 2005

Telegraph | Saddam's $2m offer to WMD inspector

Telegraph | News | Saddam's $2m offer to WMD inspector

Saddam Hussein's regime offered a $2 million bribe to the United Nations' chief weapons inspector to doctor his reports on the search for weapons of mass destruction.

Rolf Ekeus, the Swede who led the UN's efforts to track down the weapons from 1991 to 1997, said that the offer came from Tariq Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister and deputy.

Mr Ekeus told Reuters news agency that he had passed the information to the Volcker Commission. 'I told the Volcker people that Tariq [Aziz] said a couple of million was there if we report right. My answer was, 'That is not the way we do business in Sweden.' '

A clean report from Mr Ekeus's inspectors would have been vital in lifting sanctions against Saddam's regime. But the inspectors never established what had happened to the regime's illicit weapons and never gave Iraq a clean bill of health.

The news that Iraq attempted to bribe a top UN official is a key piece of evidence for investigators into the scandal surrounding the oil-for-food programme. It proves that Iraq was offering huge sums of cash to influential foreigners in return for political favours.

Nile Gardiner, of the Heritage Foundation in Washington, who has followed the inquiries, said: 'It's the tip of the iceberg of what the Iraqis were offering. For every official like Ekeus who turned down a bribe, there are many more who will have been tempted by it.'"

Why would he offer millions to hide evidence for non-existant weapons?

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