Reuters – 2004-05-20 09:24:05
LONDON: Sovereignty for Iraq means control over its oil, property and government ministries, a member of the US-appointed Governing Council, Ahmed Chalabi, said Wednesday.
“The Iraqi Governing Council will clearly define what sovereignty means,” Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress party, told BBC radio.”It means complete control over the oil, complete control over the development front of Iraq, which should be handed over to the new Iraqi government… Also control over all property in Iraq such as the Presidential Palace.”
US President George W. Bush has pledged to hand over power in Iraq on June 30 to an interim government which he says will assume sovereign authority.
Chalabi said all the advisers in the Iraqi government ministries, provinces and judiciary who were appointed by the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority would go when the CPA dissolves. “These are the symbols or rather what we define to be sovereignty, and the Iraqi people will insist on that,” he said.
Chalabi, a secular Shiite, has been a key US ally in post-war Iraq with long-standing ties in Washington, but has recently been viewed more skeptically after claims that his Iraqi National Congress fed false information to the US government and media.
The US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Wednesday that the Pentagon had halted its monthly payments of 340,000 dollars to Chalabi’s party and would seek other intelligence sources on Iraq.
US Military Raids Chalabi’s Home
BAGHDAD (May 20, 2004) — US military personnel and Iraqi police have raided the compound of the Iraqi National Congress and the nearby home of Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi. Chalabi’s nephew, Salim Chalabi, said the forces entered his uncle’s home, put a gun to Chalabi’s head and threatened him.
CNN staff on the scene saw a group of Iraqi civilians inside the compound under guard by Iraqi police and US military. In addition, an SUV was backed into the garage of the compound with people dressed in civilian clothes carrying out files from inside the headquarters.
Salim Chalabi, who serves as Iraq’s war crimes prosecutor, said the US military personnel and Iraqi police entered his uncle’s home with their weapons drawn and threatened Chalabi’s security personnel.
Describing what his uncle told him, Salim said the forces were “looking for something” and were upset with Chalabi.The forces also cordoned off the Iraqi National Congress headquarters in a separate building nearby, taking guns away from the security there, Salim said.
US Troops Raid Chalabi Residence
US and Iraqi forces have raided the Baghdad residence of a former key Washington ally, Ahmed Chalabi. Troops surrounded Mr Chalabi’s house in the upmarket Mansour district and removed computers and documents.
Mr Chalabi has become increasingly distanced from the US after openly challenging how much power the coalition was ceding to Iraqis. After the 2003 war, the Iraqi National Congress leader was a favourite of the Pentagon and tipped to lead Iraq.
On Wednesday he said in a BBC interview that Iraqis should have complete control over oil, development and property currently in US hands. “The Iraqi Governing Council will clearly define what sovereignty means,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.
Police sealed off Mr Chalabi’s and prevented reporters from approaching. There were about a dozen troops and at least two army Humvees at the scene.
Several armed Westerners were also seen, wearing flak jackets and using unlicensed vehicles, assumed to be American private security officers, Associated Press reported. Some people could be seen loading boxes into vehicles, and witnesses said some members of Mr Chalabi’s entourage were taken away.
An aide accused the US of trying to deter Mr Chalabi from challenging the coalition over Iraqi sovereignty. “The aim is to put political pressure. Why is this happening at a time when the government is being formed?” said Haidar Musawi at the scene.
The INC has received millions of dollars from the US since its foundation in the 1990s. Mr Chalabi was convicted in absentia to 22 years jail for multi-million bank fraud in Jordan in 1992. He says the charges were politically motivated.
Iraq’s Rebel Cleric Gains Surge in Popularity
Roula Khalaf / Financial Times
Baghdad (May 20, 2004) — An Iraqi poll to be released next week shows a surge in the popularity of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical young Shia cleric fighting coalition forces, and suggests nearly nine out of 10 Iraqis see US troops as occupiers and not liberators or peacekeepers.
The poll was conducted by the one-year-old Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, which is considered reliable enough for the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority to have submitted questions to be included in the study.
Although the results of any poll in Iraq’s traumatised society should be taken with caution, the survey highlights the difficulties facing the US authorities in Baghdad as they confront Mr Sadr, who launched an insurgency against the US-led occupation last month.
Conducted before the Abu Ghraib prisoners’ scandal, it also suggests a severe erosion of American credibility even before Iraqis were confronted with images of torture at the hands of US soldiers.
Saadoun Duleimi, head of the centre, said more than half of a representative sample – comprising 1,600 Shia, Sunni Arabs and Kurds polled in all Iraq’s main regions – wanted coalition troops to leave Iraq. This compares with about 20 percent in an October survey. Some 88 per cent of respondents said they now regarded coalition forces in Iraq as occupiers.
“Iraqis always contrast American actions with American promises and there’s now a wide gap in credibility,” said Mr Duleimi, who belongs to one of the country’s big Sunni tribes. “In this climate, fighting has given Moqtada credibility because he’s the only Iraqi man who stood up against the occupation forces.”
The US authorities in Baghdad face an uphill battle to persuade Iraqis that the transfer of sovereignty on June 30 will mark the end of the US occupation. The removal of US troops was cited in the poll as a more urgent issue than the country’s formal status.
Respondents saw Mr Sadr as Iraq’s second most influential figure after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country’s most senior Shia cleric. Some 32 percent of respondents said they strongly supported Mr Sadr and another 36 percent somewhat supported him.
Ibrahim Jaafari, head of the Shia Islamist Daawa party and a member of the governing council, came next on the list of influential Iraqis. Among council members, Adnan Pachachi, the Sunni former foreign minister, came some distance behind Mr Jaafari. Mr Pachachi is regarded as the apparent favourite for the ceremonial post of president when a caretaker government takes over.