Chalabi Denies Giving U.S. Intelligence to Iran
Sun May 23, 2004 11:28 AM ET
By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ahmad Chalabi, once a favored Iraqi exile of the Bush administration, on Sunday denied accusations that he passed along U.S. secrets to Iran and challenged the CIA director to a duel before Congress.
Some U.S. government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have accused Chalabi of giving U.S. intelligence to Iran, which the United States considers to be part of an "axis of evil."
"It's not true. It's a false charge," Chalabi said on ABC's "This Week" television program. "It's a smear."
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said suggestions that Chalabi had passed sensitive U.S. intelligence to Iran were baseless. "We have not received any classified information, neither from Chalabi nor any member of the Iraqi Governing Council," Asefi said.
The Baghdad headquarters of Chalabi, a council member, were raided last week, and his lawyers have written to Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, condemning the raid and demanding financial restitution.
Chalabi said the CIA, which had viewed his Iraqi National Congress group with skepticism for years, was trying to discredit him and that CIA Director George Tenet was behind the accusation that he gave American secrets to Iran.
"We never provided any classified information from the U.S. to Iran, and neither I nor anyone in the INC. And that is a charge being put out by George Tenet," Chalabi said on CNN's "Late Edition."
"I say, let him bring all his charges, all his documents. We also will bring all our charges and all our documents to the U.S. Congress, and let Congress have hearings and resolve this issue. We believe that the Congress is the place to resolve this issue, and I think our record will be cleared," he said.
Chalabi acknowledged that the Iraqi National Congress had met with representatives of the Iranian government.
"Indeed we have had many meetings with the Iranian government, but we have passed no secret information, no classified documents to them from the United States," Chalabi said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"Furthermore we have not had any classified information given to us by the United States," he said.
U.S. officials last week said the Pentagon had stopped the monthly payments of about $340,000 to Chalabi's INC group.
Chalabi on Sunday said he believed the Bush administration had turned on him because while he had favored the U.S.-invasion of Iraq, he opposed the subsequent occupation.
"I have become a person who is calling for complete sovereignty in Iraq," he said on ABC.
Chalabi also deflected criticism that he misled the U.S. government before the war by introducing defectors who made a strong case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the main justification given by the Bush administration for invading Iraq. No stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction have been found since the invasion.
"We gave no information about weapons of mass destruction, we introduced the U.S. government agencies to defectors at the request of the U.S. government agencies -- three defectors," Chalabi told ABC.
"It was up to them to analyze this (information), and the responsibility for reporting to the president after analyzing the information is not mine," he said.