Skip to comments.Lebanese Official: Iraq Cash Moves Legal ( More on the Chalabi Fracas )
Posted on 01/23/2005 9:36:14 PM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) -- Lebanon's finance minister on Sunday downplayed the Iraqi Defense Ministry's transfer of $500 million to a Beirut financial institution, saying he would expect such a transfer to be legal if it was made by the Iraqi government.
In southern Iraq, the politician demanding a probe into Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan's decision to make the cash transfer said he would not flee his country. Ahmad Chalabi said he was staying despite Shaalan's threat to arrest him and turn him over to Interpol based on an old Jordanian bank fraud conviction.
Finance Minister Elias Saba told the private Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. he could not confirm the transfer, but said the Central Bank would have that information.
However, he would not expect such a transfer to be a problem, Saba said.
"If the source is the (Iraqi) government, there is no problem. It is not against the law," he said.
An Iraqi Defense Ministry official on Saturday confirmed the transfer from the Iraqi Central Bank to buy weapons, saying the transfer had been made legally and with assistance from U.S.-led multinational forces. He said he believed the amount was $500 million.
Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Shaalan did not make an independent decision on the transfer, as Chalabi claimed.
Interviewed by Al-Arabiya satellite station, Allawi urged an end to the dispute. He said it was "regrettable" that the level of exchange between the two Shiite politicians - both parliamentary candidates in the Jan. 30 elections - had reached this level.
Shaalan said Friday that authorities would initiate criminal proceedings against Chalabi and hand him over to Interpol after the Islamic religious holiday of Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice, which ended Sunday.
In 1992, a Jordanian court convicted Chalabi in absentia on charges of embezzling funds from a Jordanian bank that collapsed in 1989. Chalabi has denied any wrongdoing.
Allawi, in the Al-Arabiya interview, said Shaalan was not speaking for the Iraqi government when he said Chalabi would be arrested.
In the southern Iraqi city of Basra, Chalabi on Sunday accused Shaalan and Allawi's interim government of buying votes for the election and saying those responsible for transferring Iraqi funds abroad ought to stand trial.
Follow the money! It's all about money.