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Chalabi dismisses Jordanian fraud charges

Iraqi politician backed by Pentagon: 'Let them come and fix it'

Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi spoke Sunday on CNN's
Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi spoke Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi said Sunday that Jordanian allegations of fraud and embezzlement against him are false, and that if the Jordanian government has a concern it should "come and fix it."

In 1992, a Jordanian military court sentenced Chalabi in absentia to 22 years at hard labor after his Petra Bank, which had been Jordan's third-largest, collapsed in 1989 amid the charges of wrongdoing.

"My response to this is that this sentence is unjust, and it's ill-founded and based on falsehood," Chalabi said on CNN's "Late Edition." "And even the legal procedures that surround it are very, very questionable and invalid."

Chalabi said Jordan's King Abdullah II was wrong in saying in an earlier CNN interview that Lebanon indicted Chalabi in a similar case.

"There are no charges against me or any court case against me in Lebanon," he said.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher told reporters this year that Chalabi had been implicated in the collapse of two banks in Lebanon -- both owned by other members of Chalabi's family -- as well as another bank in Switzerland, also owned by a family member.

Abdullah told CNN that Jordan has "an issue with Chalabi," who is angling for a position of power in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

"And I presume that if he becomes a permanent member of the new Iraq, than that's something that has to be dealt with between the new Iraqi government and the Jordanian government," he said.

Abdullah said his understanding of the situation was that there was "somewhat of a truce between Chalabi and Jordan at the moment."

The king said he has not been involved in the situation, but because of the issues surrounding Chalabi "we are going to have to solve this problem."

Referring to the king's comment, Chalabi said, "If he says there is a truce, then I will abide by it and say no more. I would add on the circumstances now that there are contacts.

"I was called by some of his senior advisers requesting a meeting between me and some very high Jordanian officials in London. I suggested that they come and meet me in Baghdad.

"They have a problem with me," he said. "And let them come and fix it."

Chalabi, the Shiite head of the Iraqi National Congress, is a favorite of the Pentagon but is regarded as divisive and untrustworthy by the State Department.

He is believed to have been a source of intelligence about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, which have not been discovered in the nine months since Saddam's regime fell.

He was also the champion of a plan to rid Iraq of Baath Party influence that has caused rancor among many Iraqis.

In an interview with CNN in April, Abdullah noted that the 58-year-old Chalabi left Iraq in 1958 as a young boy when his wealthy, politically prominent family was forced into exile by the collapse of the monarchy more than two decades before Saddam assumed Iraq's presidency in 1979.

"If you look at a potential future for Iraq, I would imagine that you'd want somebody who suffered alongside the Iraqi people," the king said.

"What contacts does he have with the people on the street?" Abdullah said. "I would imagine that Iraqis would want a figure that they know ... has suffered with them."


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