"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Iraq to Arrest Ahmad Chalabi After Eid

Fri Jan 21, 6:15 PM ET

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iraq (news - web sites)'s interim defense minister said on Friday the government would arrest Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmad Chalabi after the Eid al-Adha holiday on suspicion of maligning the defense ministry.

The INC has emerged as a power broker in the main election list for the country's Shi'ite majority in the Jan 30. ballot and Chalabi is a contender for the post of prime minister.

"We will arrest him and hand him over to Interpol. We will arrest him based on facts that he wanted to malign the reputation of the defense ministry and defense minister," Hazim al-Shaalan told Al Jazeera television.

Chalabi, a cousin and rival of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, was not immediately available for comment.

George W.Bush, Iraqi Governing Counsel member Dr. Jalal Talabani and Ahmed Chalabi in Baghdad, November 27, 2003. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

The satellite channel quoted Shaalan as saying Chalabi would be handed to Interpol over his conviction in absentia by a Jordanian court in 1992 of embezzling millions from Petra Bank, whose 1989 collapse shook Jordan's political and financial system.

Chalabi, who founded and ran the bank during a long period when he lived in the country, denies any wrongdoing.

"Our measures will start after Eid," Shalaan said. The Muslim feast began on Jan. 20 and ends on Sunday in most Arab states.

Shaalan told London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in remarks published on Friday he would order the arrest after Chalabi accused the defense minister in an interview of stealing $500 million from the ministry and posted documents on a Web site accusing Shaalan of links to Saddam Hussein's government.

Chalabi was the best-connected Iraqi opposition leader in Washington but after Saddam's fall became a vocal critic of U.S. policy in Iraq.

A U.S.-appointed judge issued a warrant for Chalabi's arrest last year on charges of counterfeiting money, but the charges were dropped in September.

Chalabi had brought together foes of Saddam, the former Iraqi president, under the umbrella of his Iraqi National Congress and spearheaded attempts by the U.S.-appointed Governing Council to remove members of Saddam's Baath party from positions of power.

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Milton Frihetsson, 03:32


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