Documents from Saddam Hussein's oil ministry reveal he used oil to bribe top French officials into opposing the imminent U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The oil ministry papers, described by the independent Baghdad newspaper al-Mada, are apparently authentic and will become the basis of an official investigation by the new Iraqi Governing Council, the Independent reported Wednesday.
"I think the list is true," Naseer Chaderji, a governing council member, said. "I will demand an investigation. These people must be prosecuted."
Such evidence would undermine the French position before the war when President Jacques Chirac sought to couch his opposition to the invasion on a moral high ground.
A senior Bush administration official said Washington was aware of the reports but refused further comment.
French diplomats have dismissed any suggestion their foreign policy was influenced by payments from Saddam, but some European diplomats have long suspected France's steadfast opposition to the war was less moral than monetary.
"Oil runs thicker than blood," is how one former ambassador put his suspicions about the French motives for opposing action against Saddam.
Al-Mada's list cites a total of 46 individuals, companies and organizations inside and outside Iraq as receiving Saddam's oil bribes, including officials in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Sudan, China, Austria and France, as well as the Russian Orthodox Church, the Russian Communist Party, India's Congress Party and the Palestine Liberation Organization.