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Chalabis Claim Innocent Of Iraqi Charges

Ahmad Chalabi (file photo) 9 August 2004 -- Former Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi and his nephew Salim Chalabi are protesting their innocence after the Iraqi Central Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for them yesterday.

Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National congress, is charged with counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars. Salim Chalabi, the administrative head of a tribunal trying former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi War Crimes Tribunal, is charged with involvement in the murder of a Finance Ministry official in June.

Salim Chalabi said he does not remember meeting the man he allegedly killed. "I have no recollection of ever having met this guy. I have never been to his office as is alleged. I have never threatened him, because I don't know who he is," he said.

Meanwhile, radical Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr today said his armed supporters rejected a demand from Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to lay down their arms and leave the holy Shi'a city of Al-Najaf. An unidentified U.S. military spokesman said some 360 insurgents have been killed over the five days of fighting in Al-Najaf.

Fighting is also reported in the southern city of Al-Basrah today where members of al-Sadr's militia attacked a British military convoy, wounding five soldiers.

North of Baghdad, a suicide car bomb exploded in the village of Balad Ruz today, killing at least six people and wounding 16 others. Police said the attack targeted the deputy governor of Diyala Province, who was injured in the explosion.

(compiled from wire reports)