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Last Updated: Monday, 26 April, 2004, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Chalabi denies being sidelined
By Roger Hardy
BBC Middle East analyst

Ahmed Chalabi
Mr Chalabi is seen as one of the Council's most ambitious figures
Leading Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) member Ahmed Chalabi has insisted he is not being politically sidelined.

He was reacting to a report by US paper The Washington Post that Iraq's next interim government will exclude most IGC members, including Mr Chalabi.

Interviewed by a US television channel, Mr Chalabi also criticised UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who is helping decide the shape of the new government.

Mr Brahimi believes the IGC lacks credibility with ordinary Iraqis.

This has set him at odds with Mr Chalabi, widely seen as one of the Council's most ambitious and controversial figures.

'Arab nationalist'

The new Iraqi government is due to come into being in less than ten weeks' time - and as the midwife entrusted with its birth, Mr Brahimi has come out in favour of a caretaker administration largely made up of technocrats.

He is against the idea - favoured for some time by both the Americans and the British - that the new government should be an expanded version of the Iraqi Governing Council.

Mr Chalabi told a US TV channel on Sunday that the UN envoy was not the "unifying figure" that Iraq needed.

He had, he said, an "Arab nationalist agenda".

Arab nationalism was, of course, the ideology of Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party.

Close relationship

Mr Brahimi himself has dismissed such sniping.

As the man the Bush administration is relying on to sort out Iraq's political future, he has a certain latitude and has shown he is ready to use it - hence his warning to the Americans not to use force to resolve the stand-offs in Falluja and Najaf.

As for Mr Chalabi, he has been written off many times before but has always managed to bounce back.

However, it does appear the Bush administration is debating whether to maintain the close relationship it has had with him in the past.




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