A top American aide to controversial Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi said yesterday that he is eager to answer allegations that he obstructed Iraqi justice by interfering with a police raid on the headquarters of the Iraqi National Congress in Baghdad.
Francis Brooke, who has functioned as Chalabi's unofficial lobbyist in Washington for much of the past decade, was commenting on reports from Baghdad that an Iraqi judge issued a warrant for his arrest after a confrontation between Brooke and an Iraqi police officer. He said he had no information to confirm the report, which first appeared in the London Sunday Telegraph.
The Telegraph quoted an Iraqi judge, Zuhair Maliky, as accusing Brooke of interfering with the work of the Iraqi police during the raid last month on Baghdad headquarters of Chalabi's group. Brooke is alleged to have told the police that they did not have the legal authority to enter the offices "because he was an American and they were Iraqis."
Although it was conducted by Iraqi police, the raid on Chalabi's headquarters was widely seen as signaling a rupture in relations between the Iraqi politician and his patrons in Washington, who viewed the Iraqi National Congress as an important intelligence source. The Pentagon recently stopped paying the Iraqi National Congress a monthly subsidy of $342,000 after charges that Chalabi had shared intelligence information with Iran.
U.S. and Iraqi officials were unable to confirm the Telegraph report, and the Iraqi judge who is said to have issued the arrest warrant for Brooke could not be reached.
Brooke, who returned to Washington from Baghdad over the weekend, said that he found it difficult to believe that an Iraqi judge could issue a warrant for his arrest without the approval of the U.S. occupation authorities. If the report turned out to be true, he said, he would fight to clear his name.
"I am not guilty," Brooke said. "But if this is true, I hope to have a fair venue to defend myself."
Brooke said he protested the raid on Chalabi's headquarters to U.S. officers whose troops sealed off the street. He said he had little contact with Iraqi police officers at the scene, other than a police captain who said he wanted to "apologize" to Chalabi for the incident.
Chalabi, calling from Baghdad yesterday, said, "Francis didn't obstruct anyone. He just wanted to find out who was in charge."
Staff writer Robin Wright contributed to this report.