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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 August, 2004, 22:04 GMT 23:04 UK
Iraq issues warrants for Chalabis
Ahmed Chalabi with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Ahmed Chalabi lost favour with the US over his links with Iran
An Iraqi judge says he has issued two arrest warrants for former Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi and his nephew, Salem.

Ahmed Chalabi is wanted on counterfeiting charges, Judge Zuhair al-Maliki said.

He said Salem Chalabi, the head of the tribunal trying Saddam Hussein, is sought on suspicion of murder.

Both men, who are out of the country, denied the charges and said they were politically motivated.

Ahmed Chalabi was once the Pentagon's favoured candidate to lead Iraq, but he fell from favour amid allegations of links to Iranian hardliners and concerns that he provided faulty intelligence in the run-up to the war.

He said he had not been informed directly, but had heard of the warrants through the media.

"I'm now mobilised on all fronts to rebuff all these charges," he told CNN from the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Accusations

Judge Maliki told Radio Sawa the warrant was issued against Ahmed Chalabi in connection with counterfeiting money.

"He is the prime suspect," he said.

"They should be arrested and then questioned and then we will evaluate the evidence, and then if there is enough evidence, they will be sent to trial," he added.

The Associated Press quoted the judge as saying that Ahmed Chalabi appeared to have been mixing the counterfeit money with other old money and changing it into new dinars in the street.

It's a ridiculous charge, that I threatened somebody... there's no proof there
Salem Chalabi

Police found the counterfeit money during a May raid on his house in Baghdad, the judge said.

He named Salem Chalabi as a suspect in the June murder of Haithem Fadhil, director general of the finance ministry, the agency reported.

"It's a ridiculous charge, that I threatened somebody... there's no proof there," Salem Chalabi told CNN from London.

On Sunday, the interim Iraqi government restored the death penalty for crimes including murder.

Fall from grace

Analysts say the warrant is a new sign of Ahmed Chalabi's fall from the centre of power.

After decades in exile, Mr Chalabi was one of the first Iraqis to be flown by the Pentagon to Iraq during the 2003 invasion, supposedly to allow him to consolidate his political base in the country.

But the relationship soured during the occupation and jockeying for power that followed the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

In May, US troops and Iraqi police raided Mr Chalabi's home and the headquarters of his party, the Iraqi National Congress, in Baghdad.

American officials announced then that the monthly payment of more than $300,000 to the Iraqi National Congress was to be stopped.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Salem Chalabi, Director of the Saddam tribunal
"I want to go and face the charges because I think they are ridiculous"


The BBC's Alastair Leithead
"The man who might have been president fell from favour with his US backers"




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