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Australia PM seeks apology from US senator over oil-for-food accusations

[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official profile] has demanded an apology [radio interview transcript] from US Senator Norm Coleman [official profile], saying that Coleman wrongly accused the Australian government of participating in illegal bribes to Saddam Hussein's former Iraqi regime through the now-defunct UN Oil-for-Food Program [official website; JURIST news archive]. In a letter to the Australian ambassador to the US, Coleman, head of the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee, said that evidence had been presented to the Australian inquiry into the scandal that officials were aware of bribes between the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) [corporate website], Australia's monopoly wheat exporter, and Saddam Hussein's government, and he expressed concern that Australian officials had told him in 2004 that they were unaware of any kickbacks. Senior AWB executives deny knowingly bribing the Iraqi government, claiming that they thought the cash was used for transport fees. Howard told Melbourne radio Friday:

I would like an apology from the American Senator alleging that evidence had been given implicating government officials in the alleged scandal. No such evidence has been given. There is no evidence before the commission implicating, I mean the word implication means that we were part of or involved in, no such evidence has been given but I really do have to legitimately ask that until the inquiry is completed, it’s not reasonable of me to make a judgement. It’s not for me to make a judgement about AWB’s culpability, that’s the role of the inquiry.
AFP has more. The Adelaide Advertiser has local coverage.

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