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Accused Ahmed Chalabi returns to Iraq

Former exile leader faces warrant for his arrest

Chalabi says charges against him are politically motivated.
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Ahmed Chalabi

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Controversial politician Ahmed Chalabi returned to Iraq on Wednesday to face an arrest warrant accusing him of counterfeiting.

Chalabi, who led the Iraqi National Congress while in exile, is "in very high spirits and ready to face anything," said Entifadh Qanbar, an INC spokesman.

Chalabi, a one-time Pentagon favorite, plans to make himself available to Iraqi government officials, said another spokesman for the group.

In Washington, Chalabi's daughter Tamara announced that her father has filed a lawsuit against the government of Jordan, where her father also is a wanted man.

Tamara Chalabi said her father blames Jordan for generating a smear campaign against him for exposing the country's weapons dealing with Saddam Hussein.

As for the counterfeiting charges, Ahmed Chalabi issued a statement Monday that said he collected counterfeit money while he was chairman of the now-dissolved Iraqi Governing Council's finance committee, which also oversaw the country's central bank.

"It is these samples that Iraqi police found when they illegally raided our offices," he said. "The idea that I was involved in counterfeiting is ridiculous, and the charges are being made for political purposes."

In May, Iraqi police and U.S. troops searched his home and office, and U.S. officials accused him of passing closely held American secrets to Iran -- allegations he denied.

His daughter defended him at press conference Wednesday.

"He wishes he could be here for this, but he is back in Iraq to face these false charges," said Tamara Chalabi, who called the accusations against her father "lies and smears."

"He has been accused in the past of stealing from his own bank," she said, "of alerting Saddam Hussein to a coup attempt, to stealing cars belonging to the interim Iraqi government, to passing U.S. secrets to Iran and now to counterfeiting Iraqi currency.

"All of these charges come from the Jordanian government, which has never forgiven my father for exposing their secret and illegal arms purchases for Saddam."

In 1992, Ahmed Chalabi was convicted in absentia of bank fraud by a military court in Jordan after Petra Bank collapsed in 1989 amid charges of wrongdoing. He has said the charges were politically motivated.

Wednesday's lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, where Petra Bank once had an office.

The complaint also said there was a plot to kill Chalabi in 1992. Chalabi was warned about the plot and fled, the complaint said.

An arrest warrant on a murder charge was issued Saturday for Ahmed Chalabi's nephew, Salem, the head of Iraq's war crimes tribunal. Salem Chalabi, who was in London, England, when the warrant was issued, called the move an effort to discredit the tribunal.

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