Former Iraqi ministers wanted over thefts of state funds

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The Independent Online

Judge Radhi al-Radhi, head of the Commission on Public Integrity, said the warrants were issued several days ago by prosecutors from Iraq's criminal court. Among those for whom warrants have been issued are Hazem al-Shaalan, a former defence minister, as well as the former ministers of housing, labour and transportation, said Ali al-Lami, a member of the Integrity Commission. Mr Shaalan denies any wrongdoing and says the accusations are part of a witch-hunt against members of the former government.Last month Ali Allawi, the current Minister of Finance, told The Independent that the disappearance of more than $1bn (£570m) from the defence procurement budget in 2004-05 was "possibly one of the largest thefts in history".

Judge Radhi has said that he expected half a dozen officials from the defence ministry to be brought to justice. He said yesterday that prosecutors had failed to deliver the warrant to Mr Shaalan because he was not in Iraq. He added that a request was being made to Interpol to deliver the warrant. Interpol said it had yet to receive such a request. As a member of the National Assembly, Mr Shaalan has immunity from prosecution, but the de-Baathification commission, which seeks to eliminate former members of the Baath party from office, is seeking to have his immunity revoked.

* Iraqi government negotiators have agreed to a key demand from minority Sunnis that parliament should review possible amendments to the constitution after December's election.

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