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Iraqi Central Bank, Election Body Slam Court Ruling

BAGHDAD -- Officials of the Iraqi Central Bank and the independent electoral commission have criticized a Supreme Court ruling that links the two bodies to the cabinet, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraqi (RFI) reports.

The ruling, issued earlier this month, will put the bank, the commission, and several other key bodies under the direct supervision of the government -- a move that critics say will endanger their independence.

Mudhhir Mohammed Saleh, an adviser to the central bank, told RFI that since the bank was founded in 1947 it has been an independent institution and that this independence was enhanced by a law in 2004.

Saleh urged all factions to keep the central bank out of politics.

Qassim al-Abudi, a member of the independent electoral commission, told RFI the ruling revealed a fundamental misinterpretation of constitutional principles as it overlooked the bylaws of the affected agencies that guarantee their independence.

Abudi, who is also a judge, said the powers of the executive as laid down in the constitution do not include oversight by the cabinet over respective agencies.

Abdel Sattar al-Beriqdar, a spokesman for the higher judicial council, told RFI the constitution does not explicitly define who oversees the agencies in question. Hence, the Supreme Court made a ruling to address this situation.

No Appeal

Al-Beriqdar said the court's decisions are final and not subject to appeal.

Abdel Rahman al-Mashhadani, a professor of economics at Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, said the ruling risks giving the executive branch a free hand to dispose of public funds, which would be a throwback to practices associated with the regime of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Central Bank Governor Sinan al-Shebibi warned on January 25 that the ruling threatened Iraq's assets overseas.

"Iraq will lose its ability to protect savings overseas," al-Shebibi said in a meeting with parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, according to a statement by the speaker's office.