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Back in Iraq, facing arrest

Warrants issued for him, nephew

BAGHDAD -- Ahmed Chalabi, a former Iraqi Governing Council member who fell out of favor with the United States, has returned to Iraq to face counterfeiting charges, an official in his political party said yesterday.

Arrest warrants for Chalabi and his nephew were issued Saturday by Iraq's Central Criminal Court. The nephew, Salem Chalabi, is wanted for murder.

Ahmed Chalabi, who was in Iran when the warrants were announced, had said he would return to Iraq to clear his name. He arrived in Baghdad yesterday afternoon, said Mithal al-Alusi of Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress group.

''He is back among his people and trying to get some rest before returning to his political duties, trying to help the government and stop the violence," Alusi said.

A former member of the US-appointed Governing Council, Ahmed Chalabi once enjoyed strong US ties.

But he had a falling out with the Americans and was left out of Iraq's interim government.

Salem Chalabi heads the special tribunal in charge of trying ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Earlier yesterday, Alusi said interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told Chalabi to stay out of the country until proper security could be provided.

It was unclear whether security arrangements were made by the time Chalabi arrived, but armed men pulled up outside Chalabi's Baghdad residence yesterday evening, removing automatic rifles from the cars and taking them inside.

Judge Zuhair al-Maliky, Iraq's chief investigating judge who signed the warrants on Saturday, said it was up to the police and the Interior Ministry to carry out the warrant and arrest Chalabi.

''I'm not responsible for the arrest, it's for the police to deal with," Maliky said.

The warrant against Ahmed Chalabi accused him of counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars, which were removed from circulation after Hussein's ouster last year.

Iraqi police backed by US troops found counterfeit money along with old dinars when they raided Chalabi's Baghdad house in May, Maliky said previously. He apparently was mixing counterfeit money with real money and changing it into new dinars on the street, the judge said.

Ahmed Chalabi said he collected the fake currency in his role as chairman of the Governing Council's finance committee.

The warrant against Salem Chalabi named him as a suspect in the June murder of Haithem Fadhil, director general of the Finance Ministry.

Salem Chalabi has said he never met Fadhil, whom he is accused of threatening over a real estate dispute. It was not immediately known whether he had also returned to the country.

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