WASHINGTON -- Former top representatives in Saddam Hussein's government have told congressional investigators they provided millions of dollars worth of oil allocations to Russian leaders in hopes of ending UN penalties against Iraq.
Hussein's vice president, Taha Yasin Ramadan, told investigators that the allocations were ''compensation for support," according to a report being released today by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigations subcommittee.
Russia's foreign ministry declined to comment on the report. The ministry said it would be ''unethical to make any statements" until a UN-appointed commission investigating the oil-for-food program releases its third and probably final report this summer.
The Senate investigators said interviews and documents from the former Iraqi government add to evidence in previous investigations linking Russian officials to abuses in the UN program.
Among the officials implicated are Alexander Voloshin, former chief of staff to President Vladimir V. Putin, and ultranationalist Russian lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Mikhail Troyansky, deputy chief of Foreign Ministry's information department, said Russia has cooperated with the UN commission's investigation, which is led by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.
The release of the Senate panel's findings occurs ahead of a hearing tomorrow on Hussein's use of oil vouchers to reward supporters. The vouchers allowed the bearer to buy Iraqi oil at cut-rate prices and could be sold for a profit. Hussein also demanded kickbacks from the oil transactions.
''This is the way Saddam used oil-for-food to line his own pocket and to curry political favor," said Senator Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican who is chairman of the Senate subcommittee.
Documents released by the subcommittee last week contended that former interior minister Charles Pasqua of France and a British politician, George Galloway, also accepted allocations. Both men deny the charges.
Galloway has said he would appear at tomorrow's hearing to defend himself. Coleman said Galloway had yet to contact the panel.
Several congressional committees are investigating abuses in the $64 billion oil-for-food program, which allowed Hussein's government to sell oil and use the proceeds to buy food, medicine, and other humanitarian items.
Coleman said he has not reached any conclusion about whether UN Secretary General Kofi Annan should have been aware of the abuses, but the senator renewed his call for Annan to resign.
The latest report by the subcommittee deals with allocations given to Zhirinovsky, Voloshin, and Sergey Issakov, an aide to Voloshin. Investigators said they interviewed 16 former Iraqi officials, but they identified only Ramadan and Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister.
The report said the Russian Presidential Council, led by Voloshin, received allocations worth more than $16 million, according to Iraq's oil ministry.
The subcommittee said Zhirinovsky received allocations worth $8.7 million. On six occasions, investigators said, he sold allotments to the Texas oil company Bayoil, whose owner, David B. Chalmers, has been indicted on charges related to the oil-for-food scandal.
The panel's report said about 30 percent of the oil sold in the oil-for-food program was allocated to Russia, even though Russia is an oil-exporting country.
Iraq's UN ambassador, Samir Sumaidaie, said that Moscow should support efforts to learn the truth about Russia's relationship with Hussein and ''that any wrongful action should be identified."