Jordan seeks Chalabi's arrest; Interpol balks

Thursday, May 1, 2003

AMMAN Interpol has rejected a Jordanian request for a warrant for the arrest of an Iraqi opposition leader.

Jordanian officials said the international police agency refused to process an arrest warrant submitted by the Hashemite kingdom for Ahmad Chalabi. Chalabi is a leader of the pro-U.S. Iraqi National Council who has returned to Baghdad in wake of the fall of President Saddam Hussein.

Chalabi was accused of stealing about $300 million from the Petra Bank. The INC leader has denied the charges and said they were brought against him under pressure from Saddam, Middle East Newsline reported.

U.S. officials said the Petra Bank collapse was investigated in the late 1990s when Congress approved $97 million for the Iraqi opposition, including the INC. They said the investigation determined that the Jordanian charges against Chalabi were politically motivated.

Officials said Interpol refused to process the Jordanian request for a warrant against Chalabi because he was convicted in a state security court, rather than in a civilian court. Amman has pledged to retry Chalabi in a civilian court.

In 1978 Chalabi co-founded Petra Bank in Amman and was accused of being involved in funding deals with Iran and Iraq. The bank collapsed in 1989 and Chalabi fled the country and moved to the United States.

The Jordanian request called for Interpol to issue a warrant for Chalabi's arrest, which would have required the international community to seek and capture the INC leader. Officials said the Hashemite kingdom wanted to have Chalabi arrested and extradited to Jordan to face trial for embezzlement.

In 1992, a Jordanian court convicted Chalabi in absentia of charges of embezzlement, fraud and breach of trust. The court sentenced Chalabi to 22 years in prison.

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