- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2004

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Members of Iraq’s Governing Council yesterday condemned a raid on the house and offices of Washington’s former top Iraq ally, Ahmed Chalabi, and said it was orchestrated by the U.S.-led administration.

Three officials who attended a meeting of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council said its members held the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) responsible for Thursday’s raid.

“The Governing Council unanimously condemned the raids on Mr. Chalabi’s home and holds the coalition authorities responsible,” said Samir al-Askari, deputy council representative for Shi’ite member Mohammed Bahr al-Ullum.

Mr. al-Askari, who confirmed that Mr. Chalabi was at the extraordinary meeting, said the Governing Council would hold talks with CPA administrator L. Paul Bremer today to ensure that “such incidents do not happen again.”

The CPA has said the raid was ordered by an Iraqi judge and that U.S. forces were present only as backup.

The raids, in which soldiers and police sealed off the neighborhood where Mr. Chalabi lives, escalated a confrontation between the U.S.-led occupation authority and the man whose Pentagon connections once hinted at a top role in a sovereign Iraq.

“Whatever I think of him, it’s not right to go bursting into people’s bedrooms,” said another person who was present at the 25-member Governing Council meeting.

The raid came two days after U.S. officials announced the Pentagon had cut off funding of $340,000 monthly for Mr. Chalabi’s party, the Iraqi National Congress.

Mr. Chalabi has clashed with U.S. officials over future control of Iraq’s oil revenues and a fraud probe of the U.N. oil-for-food program.

Officials of the CPA have said the raid was based on charges including fraud. Council sources said arrest warrants stemmed from charges of extortion and false imprisonment against members of Mr. Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, who were affiliated with Iraqi ministries.

An Iraqi investigating magistrate involved in the case said yesterday that people sought for questioning had kidnapped and tortured Iraqis, in addition to misappropriating government property.

CPA officials have also said Mr. Chalabi was running his own independent investigation of the U.N. oil-for-food corruption scandal, a charge disputed by members of the Governing Council, who say he is representing them in the probe.

Some members of the council, which is to be dissolved on June 30 when Washington formally transfers sovereignty to Iraqis, said they were prepared to resign over the raids, people who attended the meeting said.

Kurdish council member Mahmoud Othman said it was “unacceptable for a member of the council to be treated in such a way without prior warning.”

“We have unanimously condemned these raids, which were politically motivated and illegal. It was the Americans who were responsible,” he said.

The criticism came after the coalition sought to distance itself from involvement in the operations, saying only that the raids were Iraqi-led.

The head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, praised the operation in comments to the House Armed Services Committee in Washington.

“It was the Iraqi police who conducted the activity, that the role for U.S. forces was as an outer cordon, not part of the activity in any of the facilities,” he said.

“It’s Iraqis doing what they should be doing.”

Mr. al-Askari said the Governing Council had exonerated Interior Minister Samir al-Sumaydai and justice minister Hashem Abderrahman al-Shibli.

“Neither the interior minister nor the justice minister were aware of these operations,” he said, contradicting Gen. Myers, who said, “This was an Iraqi minister of interior initiative, done by their police.”

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