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No, Mr Galloway, you're not in the clear yet By Charles Moore, Editor of The Daily Telegraph (Filed: 21/06/2003) http://tinyurl.com/evq9 "What's happening with George Galloway, then?" people ask me, and I find that many of them think that The Daily Telegraph has long since received a libel writ from the Labour MP. This is not surprising, for in the two months since we published official Iraqi documents purporting to show that Mr Galloway took large sums from Saddam Hussein's regime, the Labour backbencher has spoken repeatedly, excitedly and inaccurately about the case. He has talked of "black propaganda" and "intelligence hocus-pocus". He has even suggested that we might be in the business of churning out forgeries in Arabic to destroy him. He has spread scurrilous misrepresentations of our correspondent David Blair's account of how he found these documents. But he has failed to cast any doubt on their authenticity. And, no, he has not yet issued a libel writ. What Mr Galloway can now justifiably say is that an entirely different set of documents was doubtful. Yesterday the Christian Science Monitor in Boston confirmed that papers it published purporting to show that Mr Galloway accepted Iraqi largesse running into millions of dollars were "almost certainly" fakes. The Mail on Sunday has already exposed as crude forgeries further papers from the same source. These revelations have no bearing whatsoever on our story, but in telling Sky News yesterday how the Monitor's experts had unmasked their documents as forgeries, Mr Galloway promised that ours too would "meet the same fate". He was ignoring the fact that those experts went on to say they believed ours to be consistent with genuine Iraqi documents. "This tells you something," he hinted to BBC radio on Tuesday. "There is a market in forged documents about me." There may be a market, but The Daily Telegraph is not part of it: we paid nothing for our story, no one supplied it to us, and our documents are not forged. First, both sets of forged documents were produced by the same mysterious Iraqi who wished to be known only as "General S". By contrast, David Blair found our documents himself in a box file labelled "Britain" in the foreign ministry in Baghdad a few days after the fall of Saddam. No one steered him in that direction. No one else was involved, save for his Iraqi translator. Nothing about the way they were found was consistent with them having been planted. Second, General S claimed that his few sheets of paper had been torn out of an official file, but there was nothing to support this and no context within which to evaluate them. Our documents, by contrast, were found in a government office in the pale blue folders in which they remain, bound in both physically and contextually with hundreds of pages of routine papers whose authenticity has not been questioned. We were able to verify some of these other documents - notably letters from Sir Edward Heath and Canon Andrew White of Coventry Cathedral - with their authors. There was even a letter from Mr Galloway himself. Thirdly, General S only began touting his collection around British journalists in Baghdad after The Daily Telegraph's disclosures of April 22. If there was a market in forgeries about Mr Galloway, it appears to have been the result of our story. We know all this because General S's documents were also offered to The Daily Telegraph. Unable to be sure that they were genuine, we turned them down. One of the points that we checked was whether Mr Galloway was in Baghdad on the dates given in these papers. It appeared that he was not. The MP has since shown that he was speaking in the House of Commons on one of these dates. It is a different case with our documents. This week, Mr Galloway finally confirmed a fact that supports their credibility. One of the documents we published was a memorandum purporting to outline a meeting arranged by his "sole representative", Fawaz Zureikat, between Mr Galloway and an Iraqi intelligence agent on Boxing Day 1999. In his BBC interview on Tuesday, Mr Galloway admitted: "I was in Iraq on Boxing Day, 1999." It has taken Mr Galloway two months to make this simple disclosure. On Newsnight on April 22 he said he had forgotten where he spent the Boxing Day before the Millennium. "Well, I'm not entirely sure about that," he told Jeremy Paxman. He then disclosed that he had spent Christmas Day in Iraq in either 1999 or 2000. Later, he gleefully told one of our correspondents: "If, when I get home, I discover I was in Iraq in Christmas 2000, the Telegraph will come down in flames." Well, Mr Galloway has now "discovered" that the documents were right. This came as no surprise. When we were checking their authenticity, our first move was to establish that he was in Baghdad on the date given in the memorandum. We found him quoted in a Reuters report datelined Baghdad, December 27, 1999. Why has it taken Mr Galloway so long to extract this simple fact from his own diary? Instead, he has set about trying to undermine our good faith by alleging foul play. He has said that David Blair came upon the documents "miraculously" when he ventured inside what the MP chose to call a "burning, looted, destroyed building". This is a blatant distortion. There had been fires within the foreign ministry, but not for some days. It was not destroyed. It still stands, a white tower block in the heart of Baghdad. Mr Galloway can go and look at it. Yes, the building had been looted. But, unsurprisingly, the looters were not interested in paperwork, and tens of thousands of pages of documents had survived. Mr Galloway is now also reported as alleging that we were motivated by malice against him in publishing our stories. This is not so. We went to considerable lengths to track him down in Portugal and put to him everything the documents said about him. We then gave over almost the whole of our page three to his detailed response. In his interview with the BBC's On the Ropes on Tuesday, Mr Galloway claimed that he "did not have to prove anything" and the onus was on The Daily Telegraph. Were he serious about getting to the bottom of our documents and proving that he did not take Saddam's money, then, rather than attack us and threaten to sue for financial compensation, there are two constructive things he could do. First, he could address the question of where and with whom he was on Boxing Day, 1999 - the day after he now confirms he was in Baghdad. Did he indeed have a meeting arranged by Fawaz Zureikat, as the memo says? Did he meet another man who may (possibly without his knowledge) have been an Iraqi agent? Second, he could ask his representative Mr Zureikat to give us his recollection of his own whereabouts and communications with the regime at that time. If he and Mr Galloway were to accept the authenticity of the memo and set out how they believe it came to be written, we would be happy to publish what they say. Such positive steps would be more effective in resolving these issues than simply denouncing the memo as a forgery, accusing us of maliciously orchestrating it and threatening us with libel proceedings. It would also make interesting reading. We have complete confidence in our story, in the authenticity of the documents and in David Blair. News: Galloway receives apology _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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