US industrial titan General Electric has agreed to pay over 23 million dollars to settle allegations that it bribed Iraqi officials, a US financial watchdog said on Tuesday.

GE had been accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of being part of "a 3.6 million dollar kickback scheme with Iraqi government agencies to win contracts to supply medical equipment and water purification equipment."

Four subsidiaries of the Connecticut-based company were accused of bribing officials at the Iraqi ministries of health and oil, trading cash, computer equipment and medical supplies to win lucrative contracts.

The SEC said the four GE units -- two of which were not part of the firm when the alleged bribery took place -- earned around 18.4 million dollars as a direct result of the kickbacks.

"Bribes and kickbacks are bad business, period," said Robert Khuzami, the head of the SEC's Division of Enforcement.

"This case affirms that law enforcement is active across the globe -- offshore does not mean off-limits."

The contracts were linked to the UN's discredited "oil-for-food" program which allowed international firms to offer services paid for from Iraqi oil revenues.

An investigation later found that Iraqi officials had siphoned off around 1.7 billion in kickbacks from the contracts.

In a statement, GE said the "conduct did not meet our standards."

"We believe that it is in the best interests of GE and its shareholders to resolve this matter now, without admitting or denying the allegations, and put the matter behind us."