Jordanian deputies are to lobby their government to extradite Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi on embezzlement charges.

Mahmud Kharabsheh, a leading parliamentarian, said on Sunday he was finding wide support to demand the government should take legal steps to seek Chalabi's extradition from Iraq.

Chalabi was convicted in Jordan of embezzling millions from a bank in the late 1980s.

Extradition

"We will demand the extradition of the criminal (Chalabi) and that he is handed over to stand trial for embezzlement of public funds.

"We are asking for our embezzled funds and conviction of those who have hurt our economy," Kharabsheh said.

He added: "We are defending our economy and country and our right to funds that Chalabi squandered either by taking it for himself or his partners." 

Kharabsheh is voicing widespread feeling in Amman against Chalabi, a controversial politician, with close ties to Washington.

Hard labour

"We are asking for our embezzled funds and conviction of those who have hurt our economy"

Mahmud Kharabsheh,
Jordanian MP

Last month Chalabi was one of nine Iraqi Governing Council members, chosen to serve for a month as president of the US-appointed body.

A Jordanian court tried Chalabi in absentia in 1992 and convicted him of fraud and embezzlement, sentencing him to 22 years' hard labour.

Authorities said they unravelled a web of irregularities at Chalabi's Bank of Petra, involving the siphoning of millions of dollars of depositors' money to his offshore accounts.

The 1989 collapse of the Bank of Petra shook the country's political and financial system, forcing authorities to spend in excess of $400 million to bail out depositors.

Economic crisis 

Chalabi, once among Jordan's most influential men, says he was made a scapegoat for years of mismanagement and corruption that precipitated an economic and political crisis in 1989.

He accused Jordanian officials of framing him under pressure from Saddam Hussein whose government's financial dealings built fortunes for many Jordanians.

The authorities have refrained from seeking Chalabi's extradition for fear of wider legal and political ramifications.