Galloway rejects apology over newspaper claims

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GEORGE Galloway, the renegade Labour MP, yesterday claimed he was the victim of a conspiracy after a newspaper apologised for claiming he was in the pay of Saddam Hussein and admitted its story was drawn from forged documents.

The rebel politician said Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, should investigate the forgeries which alleged he took millions of pounds from the deposed Iraqi dictator.

Mr Galloway also said he rejected the apology by the US-based Christian Science Monitor and said his legal action would continue against it.

Paul Van Slambrouck, the Monitor editor, said last night: "At the time we published these documents, we felt they were newsworthy and appeared credible, although we did explicitly state in our article that we could not guarantee their authenticity.

"It is important to set the record straight: we are convinced the documents are bogus. We apologise to Mr Galloway and to our readers."

The Daily Telegraph, which has also published allegations that Mr Galloway was paid by Saddam to promote his interests in the West, said yesterday it stood by its story and would defend it in court if the MP’s legal action goes ahead.

Mr Galloway, who is suspended from the Labour Party following complaints about remarks he made during the Iraq conflict, made it plain he did not intend to let the matter drop despite the Monitor’s admission.

He said in a statement: "I want to know who forged these documents. I am calling on the Prime Minister, as head of the co-occupying power in Iraq, to investigate how this conspiracy came about.

"As a member of the House of Commons, indeed as a British subject, I have the right to the protection of the British intelligence services from a conspiracy hatched by persons unknown, but whose handiwork was conducted in foreign territory co-occupied by Great Britain."

Mr Galloway added: "I don’t accept their apology. Firstly, a newspaper of their international standing should have conducted these basic checks on the authenticity of these documents before they published them and not more than two months afterwards.

"This internationally renowned newspaper published on its front page that I took ten million dollars from Saddam Hussein, based on papers which have proved to be forgeries.

"They did not even speak to me before publishing these allegations. My legal action against them continues."

The Monitor had previously reported on its website that Mr Galloway had been given money by the deposed Baghdad regime to promote interests in the West.

But it has now reported that an "extensive investigation" had revealed the six papers which formed the basis for the story were forgeries.

Mr Galloway said earlier: "I said from the beginning that these allegations were based on malice, fabrication and forgery and that they would soon fall apart under scrutiny. That is now beginning to happen."

Both the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and the Charity Commissioners have begun investigations since the Iraqi cash allegations were made.

Charles Moore, the editor of the Daily Telegraph, said: "The Christian Science Monitor’s retraction has no bearing on the Daily Telegraph’s story.

"Our story was based on a different set of documents found in a different set of circumstances. They were not supplied or given to us, but unearthed by our reporter, David Blair, in the foreign ministry in Baghdad."