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Iraq to arrest PM contender Chalabi for impugning defense minister

[JURIST] Iraq's interim defense minister said Friday that the government would arrest prominent Iraqi National Congress party leader Ahmad Chalabi [BBC profile; JURIST Newsmaker] after the end of the Muslim festival of Eid on Sunday for maligning him and the country's defense ministy. Hazim al-Shaalan told Aljazeera TV that "We will arrest him and hand him over to Interpol." Chalabi is said to have accused Shaalan of stealing $500 million from ministry coffers and have been responsible for posting and documents online accusing him of links to the former Saddam Hussein regime. In 1992, a Jordanian court convicted Chalabi in absentia of embezzling millions a major Jordanian bank, preciptating its collapse. Chalabi, once a strong ally of the US but now estranged [JURIST report], is a leading contender for the post of Iraqi Prime Minister after the January 30 elections. Reuters has more.

In other news Friday related to the upcoming Iraqi election, the chairman of Iraq's Assembly of Independents said that 41 party candidates in Salahaddin [Wikipedia article] province in north central Iraq has withdrawn their names en masse after receiving specific threats. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (today sporting a brand new website developed in anticipation of the upcoming vote) also criticized the use of religious symbols in campaign posters, saying it had received complaints from Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord and the pro-monarchist party of Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussain against photos and sayings of top Shia clerics appearing on candidate materials. Aljazeera has more.

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