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Coalition denies funding cut related to Chalabi allegations

Ahmed Chalabi
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Ahmed Chalabi

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The United States stopped paying former exile leader Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress nearly $400,000 a month because it was inappropriate to fund a political party so close the transfer of power, a U.S.-led coalition spokesman said Tuesday.

A raid last week on Chalabi's offices in Baghdad -- and allegations that a key member of his staff passed U.S. secrets to Iran -- are unrelated to the funding decision, said spokesman Dan Senor. (Full story)

"It was one thing for the United States government to be funding political parties, and particularly opposition organizations to Saddam Hussein, before Iraq had a sovereign democratic government," Senor said.

"After June 30, the United States government will have a direct, bilateral relation with the Iraqi government. We will not be dealing with individual parties anymore."

Senor said the raid on Chalabi's compound was a "completely separate issue."

He described it as "an investigation that was initiated by Iraqi authorities, by an Iraqi investigative judge, in coordination with Iraqi police, to pursue some charges related to individuals who, my understanding [is], have ties to Dr. Chalabi but [are] not related to Dr. Chalabi himself."

Time magazine reported that Chalabi's intelligence chief, Aras Karim Habib, was suspected of passing intelligence to Iran, and U.S. intelligence officials said last week that Chalabi was under suspicion.

Chalabi, a member of the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and one-time Pentagon favorite, denied both accusations and accused the coalition of harassing him, an allegation Senor rebuffed. (Full story)

"One would think it would be an abuse of law ... to make an exception simply because some of the individuals being charged had political connections to an Iraqi political figure," Senor said. "But applying the same legal standard to everybody is, we believe, the way the new Iraq should have respect for law."

The U.S. State Department said Monday that the Iraqi National Congress used some of its American funding -- $30 million since 1998 -- to open an office in Iran but that the expenditure was approved as part of opening representative offices in key regional countries. (Full story)

The Iraqi National Congress, a group of dissidents who pushed for a U.S.-led war to topple Saddam and contributed to U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts -- with information that has since proved unreliable -- "identified Tehran as a key office that would permit them access to Iraqis present inside Iran," the State Department said.

Chalabi has acknowledged having met with senior Iranian officials, saying his organization has worked with many leaders in the region. But he has insisted he shared no classified information with them.

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