France offers info to oil-for-food probe

Oct. 27, 2004 at 11:00 AM

PARIS, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- In response to U.S. charges of fraud, France has offered classified documents to U.N. investigators looking into corruption in the Iraqi oil-for-food program.

Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told chief investigator Paul Volcker in a private meeting earlier this month he would be given full access to France's oil-for-food paper trail, the International Herald Tribune reported Wednesday.

"We are completely open to this investigation -- anything he wants from us he will get," a Foreign Ministry official who asked for anonymity said. "It's in everybody's interest that this is cleared up."

Monday, the French government formally denounced as unsubstantiated the allegations in a report by Charles Duelfer, the U.S. chief weapons inspector, that businesses and officials in France accepted bribes from Saddam Hussein's regime.

The U.N. oil-for-food program came into effect in late 1996 and lasted until November 2003. It was designed to ease Iraq's access to vital civilian goods during the sanctions imposed on the country after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The probe is looking into allegations the regime illegally sold as much as $9 billion worth of oil during the program.

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