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 May 3, 2005
Oil businessmen plead innocent
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NEW YORK Two oil businessmen are pleading innocent to charges they cheated the U-N oil-for-food program out of aid funds.

Federal prosecutors say the Texas man and a Bulgarian, who is a permanent U-S resident, paid (m) millions of dollars in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq.

The men made the not-guilty pleas today during a brief court appearance in New York.

They are charged along with a British man. Prosecutors are seeking to extradite that man.

Under the oil-for-food program, Iraq was allowed to sell oil primarily to buy humanitarian goods. Officials say the scheme diverted at least 100 (m) million dollars that should have gone to Iraqi humanitarian efforts.

A lawyer who has known one of the men for decades spoke outside court today. He says the men are not guilty and will "be exonerated of these charges."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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