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Chalabi blames Baathists for raid
People gather outside the compound after the raid.
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The U.S. military raids the compound of the Iraqi National Congress and home of Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi.
Ahmed Chalabi

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi said the raid on his compound Thursday was engineered by Baathists who control the Iraqi police and who are now protected by the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Senior coalition law enforcement and justice officials said the raid on the compound of the Iraqi National Congress was part of an investigation of "suspected fraud in a government ministry."

But Chalabi -- who is head of finance in the Iraqi Governing Council and leader of the INC -- was not named in the warrant.

Iraqi police and U.S. military personnel who conducted the raid took away computers and documents but arrested no one, Chalabi told reporters at a Baghdad news conference.

Chalabi, who was previously a close adviser to the Pentagon, said the CPA is dissatisfied with his demands for Iraq's provisional government to be given full control of the Iraqi Army after the June 30 handover and for control of the investigation of fraud in the U.N. oil-for-food program.

"When America treats its friends this way, then they are in big trouble," Chalabi said.

He called Thursday's raid "the penultimate act of failure of the CPA in Iraq."

He said his relationship with the CPA is now "non-existent."

When asked about that comment, CPA spokesman Dan Senor only noted that Chalabi "worked closely with us over a number of months."

Senor said questions about the raid should be addressed to the Iraqi police. "It was an Iraqi-led investigation, an Iraqi-led raid. It was the result of Iraqi arrest warrants," he said.

Chalabi said an emergency meeting of the Iraqi Governing Council has been called for Friday afternoon to respond to the raid. When asked what could be expected, he said, "Wait and see."

The coalition officials said three locations were searched under the warrant issued by an Iraqi judge. "Several people" named in the warrant were arrested, but some were not found, they said.

The investigation involved "fraud, kidnapping and associated matters," they said.

Chalabi's nephew, Salim Chalabi, who serves as Iraq's war crimes prosecutor, said U.S. military personnel and Iraqi police entered his uncle's home with their weapons drawn, threatened Chalabi's security personnel, put a gun to Chalabi's head and threatened him.

Iraqi National Congress spokesman Entifadh Qanbar, speaking to CNN from Washington, said the compound was raided "in a very savage way.... Doors were smashed despite the offer to unlock it. Computers were smashed. Even pictures on the wall were smashed. Even his holy Koran, his personal holy Koran was taken as a document."

Chalabi was the champion of a plan to rid Iraq of Baath Party influence that has caused rancor among many Iraqis. He said Thursday's raid was led by Baathists who have been given power by the CPA.

Chalabi said the Iraqi police have been "completely subverted" by Baathists.

He said his dissatisfaction is not with President Bush, but with Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer.

"My message to CPA is let my people go," Chalabi said. "Let my people be free. We are grateful to President Bush for liberating Iraq but it is time for Iraqi people to run their affairs."

The Pentagon made a final monthly payment of $340,000 to Chalabi's INC party in May, a senior Pentagon official said.

The payments, made under under the Iraqi Liberation Act, were aimed at getting information and providing training for INC members.

But they are ending because, as of June 30, the law supporting opposition groups becomes moot when Iraq resumes sovereignty over its own affairs, the official said.

An exile who lived abroad for more than four decades, Chalabi was convicted in absentia of bank fraud in 1992 by a military court in Jordan, where he had founded a bank that failed. He said the charges were politically motivated.

The Pentagon flew him into Iraq with a group of followers after the U.S.-led invasion last year, giving him an opportunity to establish a political base.

But analysts say he has struggled to drum up support.

He is believed to have been a source of information alleging that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which have not been discovered since Saddam's regime fell.

When asked about that issue Thursday, Chalabi said he still believes Iraq had WMDs that are "hidden."

"They must be found. They constitute a danger to the Iraqi people," he said. "We will look for them after sovereignty."

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