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[casi] Telegraph stands by David Blair

No, Mr Galloway, you're not in the clear yet
By Charles Moore, Editor of The Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 21/06/2003)

"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

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

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

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

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